Jacob Aaron Estes follow up to the superb Mean Creek takes a
more blackly comedic tact, taking us into the world of embittered
doctor Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire) as it is seemingly falling down all
around him. As hinted by the title, the cause of Jeff’s impending
downfall lies with the seemingly insignificant little details of the
plot that inadvertently send his life careening out of control.
On the surface, Jeff seems to be living the American dream; he has a
house in an idyllic little slice of suburbia, a cushy job and a
young son with his wife Nealy (Elizabeth Banks), with eyes on adding
another addition to the family in the near future. Hoping to extend
the house to accommodate the new arrival, he applies for a building
permit and, despite it being rejected, decides to proceed with
construction. Laying new sod in his backyard, Jeff finds his beloved
home besieged by Racoons who tear up the rolls of grass nightly in
order to feast on the worms that were also inadvertently delivered
to the property.
Further exacerbating matters is the complaints of his eccentric
cat-loving neighbour Lila (Laura Linney) regarding the unauthorised
construction. Jeff attempts to get Lila on side and contend with the
infestation of vermin whilst also coming to terms with the news that
his basketball team mate Lincoln (24’s Dennis Haybert, almost
unrecognisable in the role) is facing the very real possibility of
dying due to Kidney failure.
Beneath the facade of this ideal existence lies a more realistic
truth: Jeff’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it first appears. Feeling
dejected due to the lack of affection he’s getting from Nealy, Jeff
has a drunken roll in the hay with an old friend, raising the ire of
her fearsome husband Peter (Ray Liotta). This act of infidelity
begets another surreptitious liaison, this time in order to suppress
the news from reaching Nealy, which leads to unexpected consequences
for all involved.
As you could probably gather from the synopsis, The Details
is composed of multiple strands of story that slowly become more and
more inextricably bound; in his efforts to atone for his sins, Jeff
succeeds only in digging himself deeper, until one stupendous act of
charity sets into motion events that lead to a gruesome murder.
To explain anything more than the initial set-up of these different
aspects of the story would only serve to reveal some of the major
plot twists that occur; The Details may sound like it’s
composed of a convoluted series of self contained vignettes that
eventually bleed into one another, but in action it all leads up to
creating a satisfying whole.
The themes of the films are interesting; the affable Jeff paints
himself as a put upon guy who is dealing with the fallout of one bad
decision, but as the story progresses we, and he, start to question
whether he was truly the affable nice guy he painted himself as.
Every act of kindness has severe ramifications that, arguably, end
up being more detrimental to Jeff’s life than his knowing
The cast do extremely well with the material, with special mention
having to to Ray Liotta, who delivers an exceptionally poignant
speech that resonates with you throughout the rest of the film,
despite his screen time amounting to no more than ten or so minutes;
Simply put, it’s the best acting I’ve seen from Liotta in years and
I was genuinely moved by it.
does, however, suffer from some issues with the tone, with the
dichotomy of Jeff’s intentions and the outcomes of his actions, both
charitable and poor, leading the audience down some rather dark
paths. The film has been billed as a dark comedy, but in most cases
the comedy is completely consumed by the darkness, which isn’t
necessarily a bad thing, but one should be aware that, despite the
tenuous line between tragedy and comedy, there are moments that some
viewers may find particularly harrowing.
has an incredibly detailed and vibrant image that highlights finer
details of the picture. Roadshow’s transfer can’t be faulted in any
respect, with no evidence of artefacts or strobing and consistent
colour tones throughout.
Audio is handled by a
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, as per usual. Dialogue
is delivered clearly and sound levels are consistent throughout,
with no crossing over of channels.
The only special features included on this release are deleted
opening and ending sequences. These factor in a major plot point
that was excised in the final cut, and offer an interesting look
into how a few small changes can affect the entire tone of a film;
the devil’s in the details, so to speak, and Estes was probably
right in cutting these scenes in order to lend the film a darker
sensibility. Nonetheless, I got a giggle from them and personally
found the alternate ending to be a more satisfying conclusion than
the morally ambiguous ending used, dodgy CGI and inherent goofiness
Alternate Opening (2:06)
Alternate Ending (4:51)
Although uneven at times, The Details works as an effective
little dramedy with some interesting moral questions at its thematic
core. No good deed goes unpunished and Jeff’s spiralling descent
into his own personal hell could, theoretically, happen to any of us
solely on the basis of one or two poor decisions. His desperate
attempts to counterbalance his earlier misjudged behaviour allow us
to empathise with the character and his actions do generally stem
from good intentions and the desire to protect the people he loves -
It’s just a shame that everything goes pear-shaped for him as a
By no means perfect (Which may have something to do with the
production apparently being fraught with issues), The Details
is still an admirable, if flawed, follow up to Estes’ previous film,
with strong performances from the cast and some intriguing
exploration of character motivations and the unintentional fallout
that can stem from seemingly minute details.