Updated Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Jacob Aaron Estes, who made a shockingly strong 2004 debut with the teens-in-trouble drama "Mean Creek," demonstrates a very different kind of edginess with "The Details, a filmed-in-Seattle movie about a family on the verge of imploding.
Shot two years ago and completed only recently, it focuses on a secretive obstetrician, Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire), whose home-improvement itch threatens building codes and leads to a confrontation with sod-destroying raccoons.
Jeff goes from deadpan to shellshocked in 91 minutes. Also along for the ride is his bored wife (Elizabeth Banks); they haven't had sex in months.
An old friend (Dennis Haysbert) turns out to be terminally ill; another friend (Kerry Washington) suddenly becomes sexually available; and her husband (Ray Liotta) starts behaving like a film-noir menace (or, rather, like Ray Liotta at his most cold-blooded).
Meanwhile, Lila (Laura Linney), a next-door neighbor obsessed with cats and pesto, gets the wrong idea about Jeff's neighborly manner by falling for him. Like a mildly deranged visitor from "Portlandia," Lila clearly deserves a movie of her own.
As Jeff's backyard money pit spins out of control, nothing turns out the way you might expect, though the opening scenes at a Lake Union wedding- anniversary party do hint of much darker things to come.
As the title suggests, it's all in the details, which writer-director Estes provides in large if not always convincing doses.
For the most part, the nuttier plot complications are funneled through Maguire, who is surely one of the few actors who could create sympathy for such a character. He succeeds, but just barely.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org
'The Details,' with Tobey Maguire, Laura Linney, Elizabeth Banks, Ray Liotta. Written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes. 91 minutes. Rated R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief violence. Sundance Cinemas, iPic Theaters.
JAN COOK / AP
Things get complicated between neighbors (Laura Linney and Tobey Maguire) in "The Details."