Film
5:30 am
Fri November 2, 2012

Clues To Marital Strife Can Be Found In 'The Details'

Now that he's retired his Spider-Man tights, actor Tobey Maguire is comfortably growing into adult roles, like that of Dr. Jeffrey Lang, the contentiously married and sexually frustrated ob-gyn he plays in Jacob Aaron Estes' black comedy The Details.

It opens with Maguire succinctly narrating plot points that will pop up throughout the film, a kooky list that includes a house plant, Internet porn, and poison. He and his wife, Nealy (Elizabeth Banks, who's never been better) live in the Seattle suburbs as two strangers under one roof while their back yard becomes infested with determined, destructive raccoons. And if that seems like a ponderous metaphor, it's not daubed on all that thickly.

Their closest friends are a married couple played by Ray Liotta (who could play a kindergarten teacher and still come off as menacing) and Kerry Washington, a sharp, savvy doctor whose wandering eye eventually lands on Jeffrey. His other mistake is becoming involved with he and Nealy's "wackadoodle" neighbor, the kind of lonely, abandoned woman who finds solace in gluten-free baking and pet psychics and is played to the hilt by Laura Linney. The only adult in their circle without obvious pain is Jeffrey's best friend, an under-employed family man with encroaching kidney failure given nuance and depth by Dennis Haysbert.

The movie plays out like a quirky comedy until about halfway through and then careers in another direction - that of the contemporary film noir trademarked by the Coen brothers' Fargo. Jeffrey's formerly predictable existence is sucker punched with threats of blackmail and a loose connection to a murder by bow and arrow. All the secrets that have haunted his dreams start bubbling to the surface with such force he's left with no choice but to own his indiscretions.

What ultimately solidifies the film's merit is an extended scene toward the end, where Maguire and Banks face off within the stifling confines of the family car. Each loaded reveal is trumped by another and the actors stare intensely into the face of their characters' guilt and shame. The actors are so good it makes you pine for them to reunite in about a decade to play George and Martha in a stage production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  On the evidence here, they would bring that iconic couple the necessary mix of bravado and terror.

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