Review: The Details
NOTE: THE DETAILS was originally reviewed was part of our Sundance 2011 coverage.
PLOT: Jeff (Tobey Maguire), and Neely (Elizabeth Banks) are a pair of upwardly mobile suburbanites, keen to do some remodeling on their home. When a family of raccoons take up residence in their backyard, a series of events is sparked that eventually includes infidelity, organ donation, murder, and pianos falling from the sky.
REVIEW: THE DETAILS is director Jacob Aaron Estes` long awaited follow-up to his intriguing debut, MEAN CREEK. While that was a gritty morality tale, working as a kind of pre-teen version of RIVER`S EDGE, THE DETAILS is an altogether different animal. A black comedy, obviously more than a little inspired by the films of the Coen Brothers, THE DETAILS has ended up being one of the most high profile sales of this year's edition of Sundance.
The Weinstein Co., spent around $7 million buying the rights to the film, and I suppose the inclusion of stars Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Banks made this an attractive buy. It's a very quirky suburban comedy, and a major change of pace for Maguire, who pokes fun at the way some have accused him of being over the top in his emoting in films like BROTHERS, or the hilariously bad SPIDER MAN 3.
Here he plays a rather mediocre doctor, all too aware of his own limitations, but content in his little bubble. Alas, things aren't going all that swimmingly with the wifey, with the two frequently erupting into major, roof-raising arguments. Maguire's character starts to look for a bit of excitement elsewhere, while distracting himself with a progressively insane pursuit of of a couple of naughty raccoons. Shit really hits the fan once he cheats on his wife with a delicious college friend (Kerry Washington) who, sadly for Jeff, turns out to be married to a wild man played by Ray Liotta (operating in full-on, NO ESCAPE insane mode). He also has to contend with his nosey, cat-loving neighbor, in a scene stealing, hilarious performance from Laura Linney.
Overall, THE DETAILS is a pretty good black comedy, with things getting a whole lot darker than I anticipated by the home stretch. Maguire is surprisingly good in an intentionally funny role for a change, and I thought he was terrific. At the same time, I miss the old pre-SPIDER-MAN Maguire, who was so brilliant in films like THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, and WONDER BOYS. Outside of the SPIDER franchise, I'm not sold on him as a leading man. Still, this is a step back in the right direction.
THE DETAILS also marks Elizabeth Banks' second film at this year's Sundance (well- 2011's Sundance- the same year OUR IDIOT BROTHER played), and anyone who reads my reviews knows how much of a crush I have on this woman. As far as I'm concerned, Banks is always worth watching, and she's quite funny as Maguire's put-upon wife, although it must be said that this is Maguire's show all the way.
However, I still have a few problems with THE DETAILS, most important of which was that I never, for a second, sympathized with Maguire's character, that's just as much of a weasel as Liotta claims he is in one impressive scene. Still, I suppose this was intentional. I also thought the ending was a tad abrupt, but I guess the director wanted to keep this at ninety minutes, which is probably a good thing as the pace lags in the final fifteen minutes or so.
Overall though, THE DETAILS was a decent black comedy, although nowhere near the Coen Bros gold standard of films like RAISING ARIZONA. I think the reason it's less effective is that, even at their most outrageous, the Coen. Bros films have a lot of heart. If THE DETAILS has a heart, it's likely black as night.