It’s the movie the landscaping industry doesn’t want you to see! Thanks to a seemingly innocuous gardening decision—planting new sod in his family’s backyard—the entire life of Dr. Jeffrey Lang (Tobey Maguire) starts to unravel. Raccoons mess with the grass, so he puts out poison—which kills a cat owned by his crazy neighbor (Laura Linney), who blackmails him into servicing her sexually to keep quiet about another of Lang’s affairs. That would be the adulterous tryst he had with a colleague (Kerry Washington) whose husband (Ray Liotta) is also blackmailing Lang—this time, thankfully, just for money. If it sounds absurd, that’s because this bizarre but not entirely unpleasant hybrid of The ’Burbs and Strangers on a Train is just that.
Appropriately, given its title, The Details’ best moments are small ones: a powerful monologue from Liotta’s about the nature of ethics; a subplot about the doctor’s one good deed, involving his generous friendship with an ill basketball buddy (Dennis Haysbert). Lang’s transplanted turf is, of course, a big green metaphor for the emotional ugliness hiding beneath beautiful suburban surfaces, but this attempt at black comedy is so busy twisting through its plot that it barely has time for its characters. Should any of these Cheever-lite constructions (besides Liotta’s moralizing cuckold) feel anything about these outrageous happenings, they’re keeping it to themselves. If only writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes had bothered to dig a little bit deeper than those damn raccoons did.
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