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Tobey Maguire is a pitch perfect anti-hero in this bizarre, absurd, dark movie about love and raccoons. The movie plays like a demented fairy tale, replete with butterflies, rainbows and cross-bows. The audience I saw it with was in stitches. But this isn't really a comedy. I wouldn't even call it a black comedy. I'd say the movie is more of a magical absurd comedy, if that is even a genre. It plays like a fever dream, swinging wildly between realism and camp. I was surprised about 100 times during the watching of this film, and to tell much more about it would just spoil the fun of it for you. Suffice to say, you will not get what you're expecting. If you want something normal, this isn't it... I will warn that sometimes the movie makes your stomach turn, as you're forced to live in the shoes of a morally suspect character... but I think that was the point. There are no good or bad people in this movie. There are only morally gray people, who behave like raccoons... hungry, horny, needy and desperately seeking worms... I was lucky enough to see it in a recent festival screening. I think it will be really interesting to see how general audiences respond....
There's scarcely anything than better than a fierce, biting black
comedy on a bright, sunny morning and Jacob Aaron Estes' The Details
delivers one and then some. Not only does the film give us a wonderful
premise with efficient character actors, but it's the way that we dive
into these socially and morally complex people that makes it such a
wonderfully black experience. Rarely has a film bottled me with so much
guilty, unadulterated pleasure and rarely have I liked it so much.
Tobey Maguire, one of my favorite actors, plays Jeff Lang, a doctor in suburbia with a lovely wife, a cute kid, and a Toyota Prius. As a doctor, he lives a moderately enjoyable life, but he feels rather unfulfilled with the lack of pleasure in his life sexually and literally. His wife, Nealy (Elizabeth Banks) rarely is in the proper mood, even when the kid is asleep, so Jeff frequents various pornographic websites to satisfy his typical male urges.
But it's to the extent he goes to satisfy his deeply unsatisfied urges is when The Details takes off and becomes almost fearless. Jeff decides to commit an act of infidelity with a close friend named Rebecca (Kerry Washington). They wind up having sex and it's all downhill from there once her husband Peter (the great Ray Liotta) finds out. Upon discovering the situation, he gives Jeff two possible options on how to keep him quiet about the situation and both are equally dismaying.
The shocking thing is even after this small adventure into cheating, Jeff still isn't completely satisfied and winds up accepting sex from his quirky middle-aged next door neighbor (Laura Linney). While this is all happening, Jeff's other newfound interest is attempting to rid his backyard of raccoons who have been persistently digging up his sod.
The Details brings to light two different things about the masculinity of males that can not be ignored; their quest for sexual pleasure and their desire to accomplish difficult and demanding tasks. The fact that the film explores these deep, inner urges of most males' psychs is a challenge from the writing department and it allows the viewer a deeper, larger motivation for the despicable steps taken by the anti-hero Jeff.
Because Maguire has now completed his odyssey with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise, it's pleasing to see him try out different lines of work to hopefully become known as a character actor, with roles like this and Seabiscuit under his belt. Here, he immerses himself into the deeply complex and ambiguous role of Jeff Lang and his diversity and hidden talents come forth in this black comedy of errors. This film is now available on video on demand and will be in selected theaters on November 2, 2012. Make an effort to see one of the funniest, blackest, and most deliciously subversive comedies in years.
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta, and Kerry Washington. Directed by: John Aaron Estes.
The Details goes places where most films these days dare not venture. It's a black comedy but it does not bother to play sight gags of the grotesque. It's a black comedy but it is not afraid to become suddenly dramatic. It strikes me as a generally fearless movie, not afraid to deal with the darkness and ridiculousness of male sexuality (Tobey Maguire plays the part of the likable loser-internet porn lover-sexual deviant exceptionally well), not afraid to allow its characters to express a kind of cartoonish intensity which borders on surreal at times, nor is it afraid to allow its characters to reveal deep human insecurities. The filmmaker seems to be interested in constantly showing you different sides of his characters and his story, as if it was a cubist/surrealist dream/nightmare--his characters have multiple faces, his storyline can be viewed as hilarious or dark and unnerving and sometimes even, sweet. Whereas many films released these days are formally obsessed with fitting into a genre, this movie seems unconcerned in adhering to formal movie tropes-- it is at once a hilarious comedy about a man obsessed with ridding his yard of raccoons, about marriage and silly things-- then -- deftly-- the audience finds itself sliding into an absurd realm of murder and darkness and uncomfortable laughter. The truth is, most movies are one simple thing, easily digested and marketed and discarded--but this is not that. Watching this movie you just know, it was invented with a spirit of anarchy and joy and yet, despite this apparent lack of concern for normal rules of the screen, the story- telling itself still manages to keep us consistently tense and pushed toward an inevitable, at first funny, ultimately shocking conclusion. Playing the part of a cat-crazed, manic- depressive, Susy-home-maker sexually obsessed neighbor, Laura Linney turns in a performance that should make even the most cynical movie-goer prick up his or her ears. Also, Elizabeth Banks stands out in this film, especially in the end, when, after her husband, played by Maguire, finally reveals the truth he has been hiding from her all along (all the horrible things he did in secret over the course of the twists and turns of this movie's wild plot). Her reaction to learning the truth from her husband is at once hilarious and gripping and would probably never be forgotten by anyone who sees it. At the end of the movie, the audience is asked to be complicit in the characters sins (which I won't tell you any more about so as not to spoil things). The characters just "go on" in the aftermath of the mess they've created. That said, one could argue that the end of the film is bleak, and that that is unsatisfying. But I would argue that it is just another part of the filmmaker's willingness to throw caution to the wind: It's as if--after an hour and a half of laughing-- he's saying "yeah, it's funny, but..." Since the sins explored in the details are common sins that get wildly out of control--sins any of us might relate to--the movie plays like an allegory for our shared, collective lack of morality and while it is funny... it is also serious. Some movies are perfect-- they perfectly capture you in a web of sentimentality or comedy or darkness-- this is not that. This is not a still life.
The Details begins with a pleasant enough introduction and promises of
a humorously dark spin on suburbia . With a stellar cast that offers up
top notch performances the movie moves along with a theme-park
roller-coaster like flow between comedy and tragedy. Certainly humorous
and at times truthful, the movie has a Jekyll & Hyde flow that creates
a whole lesser then its pieces.
A seemingly perfect couple, Jeff the Doctor (Tobey Maguire) and the beautiful Nealy (Elizabeth Banks) are in a rough patch in their stale marriage. Two ill advised home improvement ventures lead Jeff to a run in with some pesky raccoons and a even more pesky encounter with a crazy cat lady neighbor(Laura Linney). Doctor Jeff's life begins to unravel as he tries to navigate his way through bribery, blackmail and his urge to feel some sort of spark that is missing from his marriage. A woeful tale of infidelity gone bad unfolds that leads the Doc down a slippery slope. He tries to cure his woes with a few doses of philanthropy, but no good deed goes unpunished, its the details that always gets you in the end.
The performances by the cast are top notch, Toby Maguire as Dr. Jeff gives a complex performance that is humorous, emotional and sympathetic. Elizabeth Banks has flashes of brilliance, the last 10 minutes give glimpses of what more her character could have offered had the filmmakers seen the opportunity. Lauara Linney is comic genius in a turn that is right up there with her best. Dennis Haysbert and Ray Liotta give very pure performances. This movie couldn't have asked for better side players which only makes it more disappointing that the filmmakers didn't create a better landscape.
The Details has brilliant moments of humor, but its see-saw approach between gags and edge of darkness stuff keep it in a gray area which can only be successful in the most polished of hands (e.g. American Beauty). Ironically its in the details, where the Details fails. There are numerous moments in the film where just a few tweaks could have kept it from flying off the tracks. The lasting impression is an attempt at modern story telling that wastes excellent performances by not keeping a tighter grip on the story.
I expect some buzz about the film after its initial premiere. Tobey Maguire gives a fabulous performance and gives all that he could, however once this sort of film is removed from the gloomy shadows of the downer films that typically makes up most of Sundance it probably won't fair very well. Shame really, this could have been a more significant film.
The Details is a dark comedy with an incredible cast and good writing. What I really enjoyed was the fact that the filmmakers didn't seem to sugar coat anything and try to deceive you that a perfect family exists, and that people don't struggle with temptation and guilt on everyday basis. It's a greatly exaggerated story of an ordinary man with ordinary problems that get him into an extraordinary mess. Casting is incredible, and all actors deliver great performances. Unfortunately, none of the characters, with the exception of Tobey Maguire's Jeff Lang is truly developed, which could have made that film even better. Some of the scenes seem a little redundant, for example the boat scene at the beginning of the movie, but that doesn't really spoil the movie as a whole. All in all, it's an interesting piece of work. It will probably not inspire you or stay in your memory forever, but it will definitely make you think about your actions, and how quickly things in life can get ugly.
My favorite movie genre is the dark comedy. In the best of them characters do two things: they say the unsay-able and do the undo-able, but in a naturalistic way that turns everyday events into a journey to that feral, hidden nature that dwells in all of us but is usually only realized in dreams or fantasies. The film that kept coming to my mind while watching THE DETAILS was FARGO , the heavyweight champion of the genre. Clearly, writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes has given the Coen Brothers a run for their money in his latest cinematic effort; the story of a young doctor (played by Tobey Maguire in a career changing performance), who is living a story book existence, with a seemingly perfect home, family and circle of friends. That is, until a series of increasingly impulsive decisions thrusts him into a downward spiral that turns his innocuous existence into a living, hilarious hell. To me, there is nothing funnier than humor that makes me laugh and wince at the same time, and THE DETAILS does that in spades. The ensemble acting by an all-star cast is something to behold, with possible supporting Oscar nods to Laura Linney, Dennis Hasbert and Ray Liotta. Linney especially rises to another acting plane in her ability to turn a garishly eccentric neighbor into a believable seductress. A scene involving Liotta and Maguire on a bridge is one that I believe will still be talked about years from now. All of this is tied together seamlessly by the mature, confident writing and direction of Mr. Estes, who manages to accelerate the mundane to the horrifyingly surreal without a hint of the cinematic self-consciousness many directors have succumbed to while trying their hands at this most difficult kind of humor. Finally, I was really impressed with the way the set design, photography and soundtrack all blend together to create a sense of eerie whimsicality that eased me into a sense of anticipationindeed participationto the point where I was immediately rationalizing the shocking climax, as if I were the unfortunate Doctor himself. To sum up, THE DETAILS is hilarious and horrifying in a unique, naturalistic way, an example of independent filmmaking at its best.
In King County, Washington, Dr. Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire) has been
married for ten years with Nealy Lang (Elizabeth Banks) and they have a
little boy. Their best friends are Rebecca Mazzoni (Kerry Washington),
who has studied with Jeff in the medical school, and her husband Peter
Mazzoni (Ray Liotta). Jeff decides to sod his backyard, but the grass
comes with worms underneath and raccoons destroy his sod during the
night. Jeff wants also build another room in the house for his planned
second son, but the City Hall blocks the project. Jeff decides to build
the room without the approval and he gives a beautiful plant for his
next door neighbor, the unstable Lila (Laura Linney) that lives with
her cat Matthew, expecting that she does not denounce his construction
work to the authorities. Jeff also likes to play basketball with his
friend Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert), who has kidney problem and needs
However, the raccoons disturb Jeff and Nealy has not had sex with him for six months. Jeff decides to poison the raccoon and he meets Rebecca to drink and relief his bitterness about his dried up of sex marriage and they end the day having sex in Rebecca's home. Jeff finds a better work for Lincoln as a coach at a school and he learns that his friend will die soon. Jeff gets close to a breakdown when Peter discovers that his wife betrayed him with Jeff; Matthew is accidentally poisoned by Jeff and Lila seduces him and they have sex. Jeff decides to donate one kidney to save the life of his friend, but when he is recovering from the surgery, he learns that Lila is pregnant and he comments his life with Lincoln. Will Jeff find redemption in his journey to hell?
"The Details" is a love or hate movie, with dark humor, drama and amoral story. Jeff Lang is a family man and doctor that begins his descent to hell when raccoons destroy his expensive sod. The turmoil of his life is funny since the bad things sequentially happen to Jeff. The scene when Lila tells to Jeff that she is pregnant is hilarious. Tobey Maguire is a great actor but his baby face does not fit well to his role. But Laura Linney "steals" the movie with a top-notch performance. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
Dejavu... that's the word that comes to my mind when I finished this
movie... this movie reminded me a great deal of 'American Beauty' due
to its technique and dramatization... American Beauty has a way
different story, but both of those movies get to you in a similar
manner... how one event of least importance can turn your whole world
up-side-down in time to comes, the details tells you about that very
The acting has been tremendous... Other than the spiderman series I have known Tobey Mcguire from the cider house rules, in which his acting was commendable... but the details has a different character for him to tackle and he did it quite well... Laura Linney and Elizabeth Banks are veterans and I do not recall them throwing away their character every before... but the best thing about this movie is the screenplay... hats off to the writer who knows how to whirl the story through the time streams gently... every act was calculated and didn't feel like unnecessary or miscalculated at all...
My recommendations... do see it!
Harvey Weinstein clearly had a case of buyers remorse when he spent $7.5 million for the rights of The Details at Sundance and then spent the next two years keeping it off his calendar and having it re-edited without the director. In usual Weinstein fashion he eventually lost interest in the film and dumped it in a handful of theaters and video on demand. The result is a watchable, but unsuccessful black comedy about a philandering doctor and the people he takes down with him, when raccoons take over his yard and begin to drive him nuts. The tone is all over the place and while most of the cast does good work, we are subjected to a rare terrible performance from Laura Linney. She over acts to a embarrassing degree and stops her scenes cold in their tracks. The subject matter of infidelity, blackmail and being caught is too weighty for The Details' light as a feather approach to the material. Nothing really resonates and the film feels hollow and never goes as far in the black comedy route as it should. The resolution of the film sidesteps any challenging material for an ending that is rushed in one conversation. Perhaps the original cut of The Details addressed these issues, but I doubt we'll ever know.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this movie on Netflix streaming movies and I took a chance,
even though it has a mediocre rating. I'm glad I did, for a "dark
comedy" I found it very entertaining. Of course having an A-list cast
also makes all the difference, each one is superb.
Tobey Maguire is OBGYN physician Jeff Lang , happily married for 10 years to Elizabeth Banks as Nealy Lang . They have a young son, and are hoping to have another. This generates a need to build a minor addition onto their house, and from that springs most of the excitement in the rest of the story. A big part of that is raccoons invading the back yard at night, pulling up the sod for the worms.
Jeff's good friend from medical school is Kerry Washington as Psychiatrist Rebecca Mazzoni, married to restaurateur Ray Liotta as Peter Mazzoni. They and the Langs are good friends, all living and working in Seattle.
As the construction and back yard sodding project moves forward, Laura Linney as next door neighbor, crazy lady Lila , ends up being a big thorn in Jeff's paw. She plays her role to perfection. As well as Dennis Haysbert as Lincoln , who Jeff only knows via their playing basketball together. Lincoln is a former all-star player in college, but now has failing kidneys and works in a construction job.
To write more at this point would be chancing spoiling the movie, so I will reserve that for after my "SPOILERS" section below. In summary Jeff gets himself into a number of binds and has to decide to be honest with his wife and do the right things. Well, some of them.
SPOILERS: Everything seems to go wrong at once. Nealy rejects Jeff, much later he finds out because she was having her own affair, so when he goes to Rebecca for comfort and advice they end up having sex. That ends up breaking up Rebecca's and Peter's marriage. In the meantime his poison intended for the raccoons kills Lila's cat, she demands sex, later finds out she is pregnant. Meanwhile Jeff does a good thing, he donates a kidney to Lincoln, plus hooks him up for a high school coaching job, and all are grateful. But when Jeff tells Lincoln of his problem with Lila, and his dream of her death by an arrow while walking her dog, Lincoln buys archery equipment and makes that dream a reality. In the end Nealy is pregnant, she confesses her own affair, and they decide that keeping everything to themselves is better than breaking up two families. A dark comedy!
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