Sundance Review: The Details

Thursday, January 27 by

Refreshingly, The Details is not a comedy about big, broad set pieces. The humor is, appropriately, just in the details. Sure, there are a few crazy things but it’s not like a whole Ben Stiller toilet fueled rampage.

Dr. Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire) has frequent fights with his wife Nealy (Elizabeth Banks), so he gets off to online sex ads where the ladies show their boobies. He never indulges, just watches. His neighbor Lilith (Laura Linney) is very demanding, complaining about dust floating into her house from his yard. Jeff tries to plant a new lawn but raccoons keep tearing it apart.

Maybe the raccoons and the sex ads seem big, but they’re really just little things that happen in a daily life. Jeff battles the raccoons but not in a Caddyshack kind of way. He uses poisons and traps, and you know Lilith’s pet is going to get into that. There are some just plain weird scenes, like a piano falling on someone and a bow and arrow murder, but those are more shocking because they come in an otherwise normal world.

Writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes finds ways to play the comedy of domestic issues without making them ridiculous. We see Jeff and Nealy slobbering at the mouth as they fight, but he takes the sound out so it just looks funny. When Jeff’s really unhappy, he types “hell” into his GPS.

Jeff ends up committing adultery, but he’s mostly trying to help people. He wants to make up to Lilith for hurting her cat, and ends up having crazy sex with her. He has crazy sex with Nealy too and you see Banks’ butt! He tries to get his basketball buddy Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert) a new job but every good deed escalates his trouble.

Ultimately, Jeff’s confession of all his bad deeds is pretty hilarious too. Hearing it all at once, in the order in which he tells it, has good timing and delivery. Maguire shouldn’t have been hiding his funny side all these years. He’s really entertaining slobbering over porn and screaming his frustrations out at Nealy.

The Details is more of the type of comedy I expected to see in Sundance. There’s probably nothing to put in a trailer for a studio ad campaign. It’s just the overall town of likeable comedy, where comedies like Cedar Rapids and My Idiot Brother, for better or worse, are made up of trailer moments.