The Details (review)

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The Details red light Laura Linney Tobey Maguire

I’m “biast” (pro): love the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I wish I knew just what the heck writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes thought he was up to with this mealy, wan attempt at a black comedy. His debut 2004 film Mean Creek — most definitely not a comedy — was an emotionally ruthless, brutally observed look at the stark cruelty of children, but in this oddest of followups, the petty selfishness of grownups, the ostensible target of his would-be skewering, gets off so easy that by the time this suburban round-robin of lies, infidelity, lawn care, and unintended consequences has wound down, you’ll wonder why it was wound up at all. Tobey Maguire (Brothers) is Jeff, a Seattle-area doctor with a nice wife (Elizabeth Banks: What to Expect When You’re Expecting), a nice house, and a nice life… all of which he is doing his very best to flush down the toilet. Nearly everyone he knows — including his best friend (Kerry Washington: Lakeview Terrace) and “wackadoodle” neighbor (Laura Linney: Hyde Park on Hudson) — might as well be conspiring to lead him down paths to nowhere good, and even though Jeff accepts the blame for everything bad that happens (in the voiceover as the film opens, as he looks back on the rolling disaster), it’s hard to muster either sympathy for him or the sort of enjoyable loathing that makes you ache to see a massive jerk get what he’s got coming to him. I felt nothing at all beyond the huge disappointment of seeing such a fantastic cast — which also features Dennis Haysbert (Kung Fu Panda 2) and Ray Liotta (Charlie St. Cloud) — squandered. The wacky is forced and unfunny and the misery is nowhere near wretched enough. I fear that Estes was aiming at something like a “realistic” farce, and in the process lets The Details gets lost in its own details.

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