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Review: The devil is in The Details

Posted by on November 2, 2012 – 12:07 am

[media-credit name="© 2012 - RADiUS/TWC" align="alignleft" width="201"]The Details[/media-credit]How do raccoons, organ donations, marital infidelity and pianos falling from the sky all fit into the same movie? Good question – and The Details attempts to pull all of these things together into a cohesive quirky story, but tries too hard to be eccentric, just for eccentricity’s sake.

Jeff (Tobey Maguire) and Nealy Lang (Elizabeth Banks) are a yuppie couple living in the Seattle suburbs next to their off-kilter neighbor Lila (Laura Linney). Jeff is a successful gynecologist and Nealy is a stay-at-home Mom with their young son.  After ten years of marriage the couple has drifted into an unhappy sexless limbo where the only excitement they seem to share is when they argue over trivial household matters.

Trouble begins when Jeff has sod installed in their backyard, against Nealy’s advice, and raccoons invade & destroy their lawn nightly, eating the bounty of worms that they find just under the grass surface. After fighting over the yard’s architecture, Jeff cheats on his wife with Rebecca (Kerry Washington), a former flame who is also suffering in a troubled marriage with her husband Peter (Ray Liotta).

Things snowball from there as Jeff ends up having an affair with his crazy neighbor Lila as well, just to keep her from ratting him out to his wife, Nealy. He feels terrible for all his transgressions and befriends Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert from the Allstate commercials), an acquaintance from the basketball team he works out with, getting him a job and even donating one of his kidneys to the man to try and sway some of the guilt he is feeling.

[media-credit name="© 2012 - RADiUS/TWC" align="alignright" width="290"]The Details[/media-credit]I won’t give away too many of The Details from this movie, but things continue to get worse for Jeff and he eventually starts to lose his mind as walks a line between trying to be a good man and just being a horrible husband and father.  This is another one of those movies that delves into the dark side of American suburbia, but in its deliberate effort to be weird, it just comes across as being somewhat desperate for originality.

I like Toby Maguire and even before he took on the iconic role of Spider-Man I was impressed with his dramatic work in The Ice Storm and The Cider House Rules, but for the most part he seems to sleepwalk through The Details. If Maguire had any passion for this part it ended up smothered by writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes’ lackluster work on this picture.

The standout performance in this film is definitely Laura Linney’s portrayal of the wacky neighbor Lila. She is crazy-cunning and creepy-sexy all at the same time and in a strange way she manages to elicit sympathy for her manipulatively manic character, which is more than can be said for the rest of the cast in The Details.

Peculiar movies about bourgeois American life, films like American Beauty, Election and even Maguire’s Pleasantville, have become standard fare in today’s cinematic marketplace, and The Details offers nothing new to that genre. It takes more than raccoons to make a deviously curious movie. Grade: 5/10

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