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Zimbio Review - 'The Details' Misses on Every Level

(The Weinstein Co. | Getty Images)
The Bottom Line
Should you see it?

It's a hack job of a dozen better movies. Formulaic and much too self-aware, The Details wastes a talented cast with a familiar plot.
Familiar in almost every way, The Details is a rehashing of a dozen other films that've explored high-class suburban issues since American Beauty won Academy Awards for doing so in 1999. Helped by a talented cast, but doomed by its formula, the film fails to come close to realizing the depth of a film like the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man. That movie proved a man's actions are minuscule in the eyes of fate. The Details attempts to do the same thing, to update the story of Job, but it makes Job a wormy philandering physician, and he's too easy to hate.

Tobey Maguire plays Jeff, the physician. He's been married to Nealy (Elizabeth Banks) for a decade now and his joys are limited to his material possessions, especially since he and the wife haven't had sex in months. Jeff's problems begin at home where raccoons are digging up his freshly sodded lawn. The raccoons become Jeff's first of many trials as his life becomes a series of problems, each one bigger than the last.

Before long, Jeff has slept with his best friend, Rebecca (Kerry Washington), a gorgeous psychiatrist whose motives are unclear. Then he sleeps with the crazy lady next door, Lila (Laura Linney), who seduces Jeff with little resistance. By allowing his main character to be led around by his little brain, writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes (Mean Creek) robs his film of any empathy we might have for his main character. It's nice the filmmaker is interested in morality, it's very cinematic, but there needs to be something for us to identify with as the audience.

The one joy of The Details is watching perpetual good guy Maguire fumble around and mess everything up. He's a louse and the Spider-Man actor is solid in in the performance. Staring wide eyed with incredulity at what his life's become, he vacillates between scenes of freedom (with Rebecca) where he's actually charming, and scenes of downright shamefulness as he poisons animals with glee, or dreams of killing his neighbor. Maguire is believable wearing all these faces, so I suppose if you're dead set on seeing this film, Maguire is the one reason to do so.

Jeff seeks out redemption by giving a friend a kidney, but this only leads to more problems. Despite the seriousness of a kidney transplant, Jeff's motives are clearly selfish. He's doing it for himself, to make himself feel better for his adultery and everything else. Morally empty, Jeff is coming closer and closer to a full breakdown. He's lost control of his life and he's got nowhere to hide.

This is a film where you yell at the characters to do the opposite of what they're doing. Immensely frustrating, The Details presents unlikable, unrealistic characters who do morally bankrupt things in vague attempts at humor. Nowhere within this film is there any sense of reality. The characters do what they do because this is a movie and it's trying to entertain us. IIt's too bad everyone didn't try harder.
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