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The Details

2012 | 91 min | R | 1.85:1

The Details


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Theatrical release date

 02 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

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Screenshots from The Details Blu-ray

The Details Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 8, 2012

“The Details” marks a return to the screen for star Tobey Maguire, who’s only been seen in two pictures since the 2007 release of “Spider-Man 3.” The feature also welcomes writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes back to filmmaking, with his absence dating all the way to 2004’s muddled drama, “Mean Creek.” This distance between productions is felt in “The Details,” with its star and helmer feeling a little rusty, attempting to conquer impossibly dark material with a semi-comedic spin, finding themselves off-balance more often than not. There are a few highlights worth a look and an accomplished supporting cast to ease the oddity along, yet “The Details” doesn’t add up to much despite its rather elaborate design of misery.

An obstetrician, husband to Nealy (Elizabeth Banks), and father to a young boy, Jeff (Tobey Maguire) has built himself up as a shining example of responsibility and friendliness, looking forward to the construction of an addition on his home as he expands his family. Of course, the sunny side of Jeff is only thinly disguising deep desires, with his inert sex life leading him to flirt with women on the internet, soon embarking on an affair with family friend Rebecca (Kerry Washington). There’s also a question of his recently sodded yard, currently being torn up by invading raccoons, while disturbed neighbor Lila (Laura Linney) studies Jeff’s routine of lawn protection from afar. Needing to manipulate Lila, Jeff turns on the charm, only to be sucked into a game of seduction and animal murder that shackles the pair together, while Rebecca’s husband Peter (Ray Liotta) comes raging into view, looking to confront the doctor about his infidelity. And there’s Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert), Jeff’s basketball buddy who’s in need of a job and a new kidney, clearing a path for the conflicted philanderer to clear his conscience.

The test of “The Details” isn’t a question of Jeff’s likability, it’s the power to conjure any sort of patience with his destructive ways. It’s a complicated character, using the veneer of his suburban dad role to mask a significantly darker position of lust and control, watching as the character fidgets in his role as a father and medical professional when it appears he’d rather be out there smoking weed and racking up illicit encounters with prostitutes now that sex and communication with Nealy has ended. To follow Jeff’s misadventures in “The Details” requires stamina, with Estes keeping the viewing experience protracted, hoping to soak up every last drop of discomfort and violation, making the audience suffer along with the lead character. It’s not an easy sit, especially when it becomes clear how self-destructive Jeff is, making the effort about poor decisions made by repellent people. However, other filmmakers have managed to pull this magic act off, enjoying the tonal high wire act as the script grows progressively darker.

Estes has the ambition to turn “The Details” into an abrasive show of cleverness, but his timing is much too slack. It’s a glacial film that leans on surprise to keep the experience interesting, tracing Jeff’s descent into infidelity with a close friend and a feared neighbor, his frustrations with the raccoon invasion, and his plan of redemption via Lincoln’s medical and vocational needs. It’s a knotted screenplay that plays careful attention to anxieties and toxic impulses, but it rarely jelly rolls cohesively, pursing a farcical sense of madness that generates a robust sense of tension. Estes keeps “The Details” in a fog, wandering from scene to scene, though a handful of these moments are wonderfully charged. The unease between Lila and Jeff is perhaps the most effective element of the movie, studying the doctor’s reactions as he’s both repulsed and responsive to the crazy cat lady’s determination, with Linney supplying a colorful read of manic behaviors. Less interesting is Nealy, finding Banks stuck in an oddly thankless role that doesn’t reach its full potential.

Maguire is game to go wherever Estes leads, which, for “The Details,” takes the actor down some grim pathways to help erase Jeff’s sins. However, instead of snowballing into hysteria, the script aims to confront the misdeeds through confession, making the picture bottom-heavy with an unsatisfying climax. Perhaps the unrelenting immorality was too much for Estes to process in a comedic fashion, forcing him to slam on the brakes before his work slipped out of control. After all, “The Details” is rarely shy when exploring soullessness and blinding appetites, making a final play for redemption almost uncharacteristic of the work.

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, Kerry Washington, Dennis Haysbert
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

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