In “The Details” the devil isn’t in the you-know-whats. It’s in Tobey Maguire’s eyes.
He’s got the crazy eyes of the deranged, the bug-eyes of the shocked, the dazed eyes of the comically dismayed. All of which come in handy when you’re swirling down the drain of sexual betrayal, when you’re facing professional, personal and financial ruin, when you’re being outsmarted by raccoons.
Yes, raccoons. That’s how it all starts.
DIRECTED BY: Jacob Aaron Estes
STARRING: Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Dennis Haysbert, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta and Kerry Washington
RATED: R GRADE: C+
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
In “The Details,” Maguire is Dr. Jeff Lang, a not-that-happily married suburban Washington OB-GYN whose new lawn would be the great joy of his life. If only the raccoons would stop digging it up, looking for grubs.
The raccoons are why Jeff has to abandon his nights prowling the Internet for porn. His wife (Elizabeth Banks) may want a second baby, but her excuses for not having sex are legion. Raccoons are why Jeff has to make nice with their “wackadoodle neighbor,” a wild-haired hag played by Laura Linney. That, and the Langs want to sneakily add on to their house, in spite of the zoning that prohibits it, and don’t want “wackadoodle“ to interfere.
Raccoons, if he doesn’t watch out, will be Jeff’s downfall.
He is being tugged in so many directions. He wants to have that second kid, to keep his wife happy. He wants the neighbor, a borderline “cat lady,” calm. He’d like to do right by the working-class pal he plays basketball with (Dennis Haysbert). And he just flat out “wants” that college classmate, now married to a restaurateur (Ray Liotta). She’s played by Kerry Washington, so yes, we get it.
Jeff is a guy who has cheated, taken shortcuts, skated by all his life. Now in his 30s, that may not work anymore. Because every move he makes now just loosens his hold on his sanity (he sees raccoons everywhere) and his grip on the sides of the toilet he’s spiraling into.
And with every disaster that befalls Jeff, Maguire has just the right expression of disbelief and dismay to match it.
The players are better than the lurching, uneven script here. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes realized this and hurls extreme close-ups at us to accentuate Maguire’s mania and Linney’s lunacy. There are (fast-motion) sexual flashbacks, Internet interludes and sharp deviations from the central story that surprise us, but stop the movie cold.
The moral lessons — unusual for a comedy this dark — are muddy, and you get the sense that other characters have shadings that maybe the film’s editing lost.
Or maybe using Ray Liotta as the voice of sanity and righteous indignation is just Estes having fun casting against type.
But Maguire, given the chance to play “a dirty philanderer,” and “a cheating, cat-killing liar,” wrings every laugh he can out of this character. He may not be Spider-Man any longer, but the bug-eyes never let him down.