Review of The Details:
Tobey Maguire is hilarious as a philandering husband but The Details comes up short on laughs. The middle-aged anxiety of philandering husbands and unhappy dads is a somewhat redundant topic for feature comedies and TV sitcoms alike but Tobey Maguire brings a uniquely, mischievous spin to the comic genre in The Details, the first comedy from Mean Creek director Jacob Aaron Estes.
As Jeff, a successful doctor but screwed-up husband, Maguire is hilarious battling a family of raccoons intent on digging up the newly planted grass in his golf course-perfect backyard. Of course, the grass and Jeff’s obsession over it are the film’s standout metaphors for Jeff’s once-happy home life steadily falling into ruin.
Jeff (Maguire) and his pretty wife Nealy (Banks) are in a rut of constant bickering after ten years of marriage. As Jeff plots his marital escape, or at least a satisfying affair, a strange relationship with his eccentric female neighbor Lila (Laura Linney) starts his life on a downward spiral towards disaster.
Maguire out-delivers his standout supporting players three laughs to one and it’s surprising how often the normally funny Elizabeth Banks blows her gags.
Banks, who’s proven her comic talents time and time again in films from Zack and Miri Make A Porno to The 40 Year Old Virgin, and a recurring role on the sitcom 30 Rock, surprisingly stumbles throughout The Details as Jeff’s arguing wife.
Banks appears out of sorts in The Details, incapable of getting the balance right between a little drama and a lot of laughs. Without her help, Maguire is left to try and keep the comic storytelling afloat on his own.
The same missteps hold true for the normally funny Ray Liotta, offering another spin on his tough guy persona.
Laura Linney pushes her dramatic skills as the nutcase neighbor Lila but comes up empty. Linney is forgiven simply because one understands that drama is her strong suit. Kerry Washington and Dennis Haysbert fall by the wayside as Jeff’s close friends.
Perhaps the biggest reach in the film comes from Estes, who tackles comedy after his classic indie drama Mean Creek. I enjoy it when a filmmaker reaches and tries something new but there’s no denying the long, laugh-less gaps throughout The Details.
Thankfully, despite the comic missteps, Maguire stands tall and lifts The Details above mediocrity.
Maguire is as likable as ever and puts his boy-next-door looks to great use as Jeff. In some ways, Jeff is a grown-up version of Maguire’s frustrated teen Paul Hood in the classic family drama The Ice Storm.
For fans wondering what Maguire will do since he’s longer playing Peter Parker in the Spider-Man franchise, watching him in The Details reminds us just how talented he is and how far-reaching his choices can be.
Next time, maybe with The Great Gatsby, Maguire will land in a movie that matches better with his talents. Until then, we’ll enjoy his comic role in The Details and give his fumbling supporting players a pass.
Distributor: Radius - TWC
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Kerry Washington, Ray Liotta, Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert
Director: Jacob Aaron Estes
Screenwriter: Jacob Aaron Estes
Cinematographer: Sharone Meir
Editor: Madeleine Gavin
Producers: LD Entertainment, Mark Gordon Productions, Modern VideoFilm
Running Time: 91 minutes
Rating: Rated R
Release Date: November 2, 2012