Movie Review: The Details (2012)

Directed and Written by: Jacob Aaron Estes
Rated: R
Running Time: 91 minutes

Tobey Maguire as Dr. Jeff Lang
Elizabeth Banks as Nealy Lang
Kerry Washington as Rebecca
Ray Liotta as Peter
Laura Linney as Lila
Dennis Haysbert as Lincoln
The Details is a dark comedy that is reminiscent of Heathers or Reindeer Games, involving poison, sleeping pills, adult porn, and blackmail. The story follows Jeff and Nealy, a young married couple with one child considering the addition of a second. From the outside, their lives appear idyllic: a cute little house, Jeff's career as an obstetrician, and a newly-sodded backyard for their son to play. A rainbow even appears as the sprinkler system comes on. But underneath all of that sod, things aren't quite so perfect.

First, a family of raccoons begins to destroy the sod each evening while the family sleeps. Jeff becomes obsessed with stopping them. As demonstrated by his Obama bumper sticker on his hybrid Prius, Jeff is not one to want to harm the animals. So he starts out with a humane trap and windchimes in the trees. He puts hot pepper underneath the sod to deter the critters from digging. But his obsession begins to take a toll on his relationship with his wife, Nealy, a relationship already under strain. Their sex life is waning, Jeff is turning more and more to internet porn, and they are fighting about his attempts to be rid of the raccoons.

Secondly, they decide to expand their house to make room for a possible second child, but their plans are not approved by the local building commission. Despite not having a permit, the two decide to forge ahead anyway. In an effort to keep their neighbor happy so that she doesn't complain, Jeff decides to deliver a beautiful plant with a preemptive apology. The neighbor, Lila, is touched by the plant and also by Jeff's attention to her. Lila, it turns out, is a "whackadoodle" who lives with her cat Matthew and is mentally unstable.

Third, Jeff has a beautiful, sexy best friend, Rebecca. In a weak moment, he turns to her for advice. But after a few drinks and some weed, they succumb to their unrequited attraction to each other, forgetting about their respective spouses for the moment. But remember, Rebecca is married to Peter (played by Ray Liotta) and you just know that can't be good. Anybody see Goodfellas?

Jeff likes to release steam by playing in a local basketball league where he befriends Lincoln. As he gets to know Lincoln better, Jeff finds out he's had some bad luck in his life. He lost out on a promising basketball career and never really got himself back on track, and he is currently suffering from End Stage Renal Disease and is on dialysis awaiting a kidney for transplant.

As you can see, there are quite a few stories going on in this film, and Jeff is struggling to manage all of them. Tobey Maguire does an amazing job of being both sympathetic and despicable at the same time. Elizabeth Banks has wonderful comedic timing which we already knew from her role on 30 Rock. Dennis Haysbert is heartbreaking as the good man trying to make the right decisions. And Kerry Washington is perfect as the voluptuous best friend that no man can resist.

But to me, the breakout performances of the film come from Ray Liotta and Laura Linney. Based on previous roles, I had a preconceived notion about Liotta's character. I expected him to be a sociopath and a gangster, but he surprised me. He's actually the only moral character in the whole film. And Laura Linney is superb as the crazy neighbor obsessed with her cat. The fact that she names the cat Matthew is very telling about her feeling that the cat is more human than cat. And her house looks like a time capsule from the 50's along with her hair and clothes.

In the end, the film has you asking yourself what you would do if you found out that your husband was involved in murder, infidelity, animal cruelty, and blackmail? Would you expose him and let him get his just desserts or would you keep it between you and go on as though nothing happened? How would your decisions affect the lives of others around you? What constitutes doing the right thing: the action that follows the letter of the law or the action that harms the least number of people? Things aren't so black and white in The Details. I think it's definitely worth the watch.

You can watch it in theaters now or get it from my Amazon store on the right of this page. You can also download it from iTunes at The Details

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