Ever hear the one about dysfunction in the suburbs?
Yawn. Here we go again. Writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes made an impressive debut with 2004’s Mean Creek and has apparently done nothing but watch American Beauty over and over again ever since. There are raccoons digging up Tobey Maguire’s postcard-perfect lawn, looking for worms under the sod in this sterile suburbia. I hope you noticed that this is a giant honking metaphor, because The Details is that kind of movie.
Maguire charmlessly, unconvincingly assays the lead role as a frustrated OB-GYN, addicted to Internet porn because his shrewish wife (Elizabeth Banks) won’t put out anymore. Inexplicably, women keep throwing themselves at him, and he does a little bump and grind with old pal Kerry Washington before accidentally knocking up his crazy cat lady neighbor (Laura Linney, in a rare terrible performance.) But deep down, he just wants to be a nice person, so Maguire constantly condescends to his one black friend (Dennis Haysbert) and even gives the poor fella one of his kidneys.
The Details is unspeakably smug and often laughably miscast. Maguire is supposed to be playing one of those horndog Michael Douglas-threatened-white-guy roles, yet comes off as a little kid blowing an audition for the school play. Shot with too many wide-angle lenses and an awfully gaudy color scheme, everything here is intentionally grotesque to service the filmmaker’s cheap shots, and somehow Maguire always ends up let off the hook for his bad behavior because in this movie’s universe, women and black people are just plain crazy. The third act steals a twist from Woody Allen’s dramatic territory, and I don’t think Estes even comprehends the queasy, racist undertones. The movie’s smarminess lingers like a hangover. When it was over, I wanted nothing more than a shower.
Gathering dust since 2011’s Sundance Film Festival, The Details is being given a quickie, cursory theatrical release from The Weinstein Company’s direct to video branch. They should have left it on the shelf.