‘The Details,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


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.

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