Review of The Details

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When a family of raccoons discover worms living underneath the sod in Jeff and Nealy's backyard, this pest problem begins a darkly comic and wild chain reaction of domestic tension, infidelity and murder. Starring Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Ray Liotta, Kerry Washington & Laura Linney.
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Movie Review: "The Details"

Rating: R
Length: 91 minutes
Release Date: November 4, 2012
Directed By: Jacob Aaron Estes
Genre: Comedy

There is an old adage in Hollywood that says actors should never work with children or animals, but "The Details" proves that saying wrong. With stellar acting from an award-winning cast, a humorous plot, and a strong story, this film has something for everyone.

Director Jacob Aaron Estes made a splash with his debut film "Mean Creek," which told the story of a group of teens harboring a dark secret. "The Details" has a few secrets of its own, and the characters reveal those secrets in the opening scenes. As the camera slowly pans across a living room filled with sleeping pills, poison, and other odd items, the viewers will quickly realize that this isn't just another comedy.

Jeff (Tobey Maguire, "Spiderman") is a man struggling at home and at work. His wife Nealy (Elizabeth Banks, "What to Expect When You're Expecting") is so busy being a mother that she neglects her wifely duties, which leads to problems between the couple. With a second child on the way, Jeff decides to throw himself into various home improvement projects to keep his mind off his problems. However, he finds himself in trouble when he discovers a group of pesky raccoons taking over his yard and his home.

The real story behind "The Details" surrounds the details in Jeff's life. His next door neighbor Lila (Laura Linney, "Primal Fear") has an abundance of cats, and he can never tell whether it's those animals or the raccoons wreaking havoc on his home. Jeff also finds himself tempted by his good friend Rebecca (Kerry Washington, "Scandal") and concerned about his deathly ill friend Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert, "24"). All of the various subplots and stories lead up to a satisfying and humorous conclusion.

Director Estes does a smart job of keeping the focus on Maguire. The actor has grown up since donning his spider suit, and he channels his own frustrations as a father for his role. Maguire and Banks have amazing chemistry on the big screen, making it easy for viewers to buy the two as a frustrated married couple.

Oscar nominee Linney is the hidden gem of the film. While trailers rarely focus on her character, she is the one person who viewers will find themselves thinking about later. The actress doesn't mind dressing down for the part, and she takes the role a step further by truly channeling the role of the crazy cat lady. When Jeff reaches for poison to control her large cat population, some viewers might even discover that they care more about her than anyone else in the film.

Some of the scenes in "The Details" might feel a little too predictable for some viewers. Anyone who has ever seen "The Money Pit" or any other film about a home improvement project will likely know what to expect from this film. That doesn't interfere with the laughs though, because Maguire and Banks seem to know exactly what to do to get a laugh out of the audience. Whether it's Maguire standing in the backyard and surveying the damage or a subtle eye roll from Banks, viewers will find themselves giggling.

While the film is a comedy, it has a few dramatic and heart-tugging moments that viewers will remember long after the credits role. The relationship between Jeff and Nealy is one that many viewers can relate to in terms of their own personal lives. When Lincoln announces his illness, many will recall a similar moment involving a loved one, and when Rebecca becomes available, some viewers will think about the one unattainable friend they have.

The one minor downside to the film is that the director doesn't give Banks much of a chance to shine. The actress appeared in a string of hit comedies in recent years and garnered acclaim on the television show "30 Rock," but Estes doesn't make use of her talents. She spends more time playing the straight man to Maguire, and it doesn't quite work in the film. Her few one-liners come across as the best moments in the film.

"The Details" does a great job of showing viewers the frustrations, real and imaginary, in Jeff's life. There are moments in the film when it becomes clear that the raccoons he fights just might be a figment of his imagination. At the end of the film, viewers will walk away thinking about the problems and frustrations in their own lives and wishing they could cope as well as the main character in this film.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars