I’ve often said that the most influential films of the past 25 years were “Pulp Fiction” and “The Matrix,” two movies that have been copied endlessly by filmmakers who had nary a clue as to what these films were actually doing.
It’s a list to which I’d also add “American Beauty,” a movie that examined the rot beneath the veneer of idyllic suburban life. How many films have you seen with that same template: the seemingly mundane suburbanite whose world is upended and, in turn, who upends his life as a result?
“The Details,” opening in limited release Friday (11/2/12), is the latest film to try to follow the “American Beauty” template – and to do so badly. It’s as if writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes made a list of things he wanted to include in his movie, one that included a smug doctor, a crazy neighbor, a shaky marriage, a kidney transplant, murder, infidelity, archery (the year’s most tired meme) and raccoons. Then he randomly drew lines from one to another and made it his challenge to figure out a way to connect them dramatically (or comedically).
“The Details” all seems both calculated and random – or perhaps calculatedly random. The connections seem arbitrary; they have no resonance or shock value. In order to make an audience to say, “Whoa – I didn’t see that coming,” you have to have the surprise make actual dramatic sense.
This review continues on my website.