Sundance 2011: 'The Details' is a Darkly Hilarious Look at Infidelity
by Ethan Anderton
January 26, 2011
After installing some new sod in their backyard, Dr. Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire) suddenly has a problem with raccoons lifting up the layers of dirt and grass for whatever grub they can rustle up. But this is just the beginning of Dr. Lang's problems as these nocturnal creatures set off a chain of events that lead to stress, infidelity, pregnancy and even death. Yeah, these are ruthless raccoons. The Details follows the ludicrous and twisted happenings when a series of mistakes cause Dr. Lang to make some pretty unethical decisions that slowly begin to tear his family apart. Never has suburban turmoil been so perversely hilarious.
Clearly the Lang family was having some issues before the raccoons came along, as Dr. Lang and his wife Nealy (Elizabeth Banks) argue heatedly (to the tune of a phenomenal and whimsical soundtrack from Tomandandy) before going to an anniversary party. Later Dr. Lang takes solace in the company of an old friend (Kerry Washington) who provides a marijuana treat and sexual hook-up in her husband George's (Ray Liotta) garage. Aside from George's sudden affront to Dr. Lang's well-being and marriage, back home the raccoons still aren't letting up. In addition, the family man has to also keep his crazy neighbor (Laura Linney) happy while supervising an unapproved addition to their house.
And to think, all of these problems barely make-up the first half of the film and more are on the way. From here Dr. Lang's issues only snowball despite his efforts to reverse his karma by helping his friend Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert) in more ways than one. Dealing with all these problems, Tobey Maguire delivers a hilarious performance, and many of the laughs come from his wildly expressive eyes and confused facial expressions throughout all the madness. One particular monologue by Maguire towards the end of the film (I won't spoil its content) is more than comical. Meanwhile, Laura Linney is fantastic as the Lang's wacky neighbor Lila and the exchanges between she and Maguire are priceless.
Director Jacob Aaron Estes (who delivered Mean Creek to Sundance back in 2004) has returned to the festival with a film that's essentially just as dark as that directorial debut of adolescent murder, but brings dark humor into the equation for a truly unique comedy. Estes also wrote The Details, and his screenplay is clever with plenty of silliness and subtlety to get a wide variety of laughs throughout. Thankfully, The Weinstein Company has already picked up the dark comedy to likely release it sometime later this year, so you'll be able to enjoy the twisted, troubles of the Lang family as much as I did.
Ethan's Sundance Rating: 8 out of 10