Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. This has been an incredibly good fest for comedies. Even though I go through the Sundance schedule a few dozen times before even setting foot in Park City the movies tend to run together in my mind, so I schedule furiously in the weeks leading up to the fest.
Even with all that, by the time I get to this mid-point of the fest, I start caring about what film is what and just show up to the theater. I wasn’t reminded that this one, called The Details, was the Tobey Maguire movie until the day before and even then I only recalled that the info in the guide was vague at best… something about raccoons tearing up Maguire’s yard.
I’m kind of glad I went into this movie with little to no knowledge of the plot because this movie is kind of ridiculous. There’s a lot of these kinds of movies at the fest this year… ridiculous movies with semi-outrageous aspects, but with real dramatic weight to them.
What you have here is essentially one man’s slow descent into hell. The opening shot (and I swear to God this isn’t a story spoiler) has Tobey Maguire sitting outside, looking a little bewildered as the shot holds on him for quite a while. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere a piano drops on him. Like Coyote/Road Runner piano drop. Twitching leg sticking out from underneath Wicked Witch style.
Voice over tells us that the events that led him there started simply enough… with a new lawn in the backyard. This sod is filled with earthworms and apparently raccoons like to eat earthworms, so the little bastards start tearing up the sod at night.
That one little event acts as the first falling domino that sets off a series of events that lead to life, death, bribery, infidelity and murder. But all under the banner of a drama-comedy written and directed by the guy that handled the very underseen, but very good MEAN CREEK, Mr. Jacob Aaron Estes.
Know what this movie really reminded me of? A funnier and far more watchable REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. The base is the same… we see the deterioration of a marriage through external difficulties, but I don’t remember Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet arguing in slow motion as fighting dog sounds were overlaid.
Maguire’s wife is played by Elizabeth Banks, in perhaps her best performance, and the relationship is clearly strained even before the events of the movie. They have a very cute kid, are fairly well off (he’s a doctor), but there’s no honesty in their relationship.
So, when shit starts to go down, when old friends turn into lovers, there’s no through road for Maguire to relieve the tension. Instead, he keeps these welling emotions, desires and hidden shames deep inside, letting what is really a minor situation get so ridiculously out of hand that you never really know just how far this movie will go.
Before I flake out due to a completely run down battery (talking both literally with my computer and figuratively with my sleep-deprived state), I want to bring up Mr. Dennis Haysbert, who plays a friend of Maguire’s, an older almost-was basketball player. Haysbert is the innocent of the movie… he has a strong moral compass, an even stronger faith, a beautiful family, a genuine kindness and, unfortunately, failing kidneys. The prognosis isn’t good, but you’d never know it from this smiling giant of a man.
At a certain point Maguire uses this friendship as a way to make himself feel selfless, an act that reflects both positively and negatively on his character. But Maguire’s situation is so fucked up that he ends up tainting even this nearly angelic character.
Hayesbert is fantastic in the movie, probably my single favorite performance in the film. I’ve been a fan of his since 24 (and I still firmly believe that his President David Palmer helped pave the way for our first real life African-American President), so it was good to see him back again and in such great form.
I also want to recognize the always dependable Laura Linney who is almost unrecognizable as the crazy cat lady that lives next door to Maguire and Banks. She has Joker-level crazy in her eyes, but also a kind of sadness about her. It’s really a great performance.
The Weinstein Company just picked up this flick and I highly recommend it. It has a lot of star power and a lot of recognizable faces (I didn’t even mention Ray Liotta is in the flick yet and he’s good in it, too!), but most importantly it’s a nice semi-cynical, semi-hopeful bleak comedy.
If I know the Weinsteins like I think I know the Weinsteins you’ll see a big push for Linney as supporting actress next round of Academy Awards. I don’t know if this picture is arty or mainstream enough to get any bigger recognition, but it’s certainly one of my favorites of the festival and one I find easy as pie to recommend.
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