As the story unfolds, we are introduced to an entertaining cast of characters, including Laura Linney (The Truman Show, The Squid and the Whale) as the crazy next-door neighbor cat lady, and Ray Liotta (Good Fellas, Revolver) as another neighbor who Jeff betrays. Linney’s mascara-smeared face and crazed energy create some of the best laughs in the movie, while Liotta does what he does best: scare and intimidate. Liotta’s roll in the film helps us realize what kind of a man Jeff really is and the answer is not impressive. Toby Maguire’s deadpan portrayal of Dr. Jeff Lang has its moments of pathetic hilarity. His misfortunes are satisfying since he deserves every ounce of what he gets, and yet, he maintains his role as lead protagonist.
The characters are the strength of this film while the colorful plot builds with some predictability. Small absurd moments give way to increasingly more outrageous and dark-humored ones, and, while the story reflects suburban issues, it doesn’t feel totally fresh. Suburban life and its issues may not change much—there are the staples: adultery, nosey neighbors, blackmail—but The Details doesn’t quite succeed in presenting these issues in a new light for 2011. It seems the film doesn’t really have the time to stop and create meaning from all its wackiness.
The Details is a fun film and it definitely pops when lined up against other Sundance films. It leans heavily on its absurdist humor so much so that any real message is left somewhere between one ridiculous event and another, but it still entertains. The film is not as deep or lofty as American Beauty, and it is not as light as Pleasantville, but it is 100 percent over-the-top. If you enjoy black humor, it is a unique film to watch out for this year.