Sunday, April 28, 2013

On DVD & Blu-ray: THE DETAILS -- Don't pass up Jacob Aaron Estes' smart comedy

A life-lessons-cum-racoon comedy, THE DETAILS came and went from theaters with something approaching the speed of light. And why not? When more than a dozen movies open in any given week (last week's total here in NYC: 21), how can audiences with limited time and money possibly keep up? Consequently, some of the most creative and original stuff gets lost in the shuffle.

One such movie is Jacob Aaron Estes' very funny, dark, sad and unusual comedy about how life happens, with the responsibility for what happens only partially our own. That partial bit, however, is still major, and owning up to things (or not) is a big part of the problem. Almost a decade ago, Mr. Estes (shown at left) gave us his first full-lengther, the excellent (and also dark) coming-of-age movie Mean Creek. Since then he's done only a bit of writing and no directing till now, so it is very good to have him back in business. This guy is still surprising us, giving us a movie that, once seen, will take a permanent, if minor, place in our collective memory.

What happens, from the very outset is ridiculous but oddly believable, given the characters on view. These include our hero (a good job from the slowly maturing Tobey Maguire, above, center), as a young doctor, semi-happily married (with one child) to Elizabeth Banks (above, left).

The rest of the ensemble includes his also married best friends, Ray Liotta (above, doing some very nice and quite different work here) and Kerry Washington, and a needy, nerdy next-door neighbor (the incomparable Laura Linney, below, with Maguire, and doing, as always, yeoman work),

and a more-than-down-on-his-luck fellow whom our hero plays basketball with (an excellent and near-unrecognizable Dennis Haysbert, below). How Mr. Estes has mixed and matched these characters so delightfully and crazily without quite ever losing our understanding or good will is something of a marvel.

His purpose, I think, is to make us look at life from a different angle. He succeeds, while also revealing the depths of denial of which we humans are capable and offering up a group of racoons that ought to win Best Movie Animal Life Award, should the Academy ever deign to offer such a prize.

Also included on this DVD/Blu-ray is a feature we don't see so often anymore but, here, it's one that demands your watching, once you've seen the finished film: both an alternate beginning to the movie and an alternate ending. While not changing the point of his film, Estes' alternates offer even more fun. I'm not sure, in fact, that I wouldn't prefer the alternates to the actual beginning and end. Either way, the movie works its magic and demands a viewing.

From Anchor Bay Entertainment and Radius-TWC and running 101 minutes (the alternate stuff adds just a few more), The Details hits the street this Tuesday, April 30, on DVD & Blu-ray, for sale/rental.

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