Film Review: The Details

It’s a Weinstein release, but I don’t foresee any big Oscar push for this wacky misfire.
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Tobey Maguire has always struck me as a highly watchable, particularly committed, honest actor, and he gets his most adult, challenging role to date in The Details. I wish I could say it was an unmitigated triumph for him, but writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes’ concept is so bizarrely dark and wayward that it would have defeated even Sir Laurence Olivier himself.

Maguire plays Dr. Jeff Lang, a suburbanite ensconced in a neighborhood where raccoons are running rampant and destroying his new lawn, as if a symbol for his disintegrating, highly combative and sexless marriage to Nealy (Elizabeth Banks). The couple is surrounded by a lot of wacky folk: neighbor Lila (Laura Linney, amusing herself immensely, if not the viewer), who puts the “crazy cat” in crazy cat lady; seemingly mismatched married friends Peter (Ray Liotta—is he, like Christopher Walken, ever normal?) and Rebecca (Kerry Washington), and Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert), who’s black, oh-so-wise and dying.

It’s obvious that Estes is working out some highly affective, personal experiences on the screen here, and his movie is undeniably original. It’s been imaginatively filmed with a lot of sprightly visual fillips, droll narration and hip music score, but it’s all so alternately tightly coiled and explosively outlandish that it eventually becomes more of a viewer chore than a diversion, straining your freely given goodwill and interest. The overall unpleasantness of Lang’s situation begins to surpass even that marriage hell Edward Albee depicted in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and watching it becomes a suffocating experience. And then there are all those pesky raccoons to contend with, who do everything but sing, like those blasted chipmunks. Given Estes’ anything-goes sense of whimsy here, I’m surprised they don’t.