Arts alum to present sneak preview of feature film at UCSC

Writer/director Jacob Estes talks about his new movie, 'The Details'

Actress Elizabeth Banks
ELIZABETH BANKS as Nealy Lang and TOBEY MAGUIRE as Jeff Lang in The Details (All photos courtesy of RADiUS-TWC)
Actor Ray Liotta
RAY LIOTTA plays the part of Peter Mazzoni
UC Santa Cruz alumnus Jacob Estes, screenwriter and director of The Details
UC Santa Cruz alumnus Jacob Estes, screenwriter and director of The Details (photo courtesy of Jacob Estes)

UC Santa Cruz arts alumnus Jacob Estes ('94 Media Studies) will present a special advance screening of his latest film The Details on Thursday, October 4, at UCSC’s Media Theater. 

Officially scheduled for release in theaters on November 2, The Details stars Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Ray Liotta, Laura Linney, and Kerry Washington.

Admission is free and open to the public (seating is limited). The screening will be followed by a Q & A session with Estes.

The Details is about a troubled married couple living in an idyllic suburban home, where a family of hungry raccoons has been running amok in their pristine backyard.

The husband becomes obsessed with eradicating the pests by any means necessary, leading to a hot mess of infidelity, extortion, organ donation, and other assorted mayhem.

“It's meant to be an absurdist tale about sexuality, anger, and the choices we make that we can never really forgive ourselves for,” said Estes, who both wrote and directed the film.

“Or else I'd call it a black existential comedy,” he added. “Before we shot, I had dinner with the cast and asked them how they would describe the film. I remember Laura Linney saying: ‘It's about nature and redemption.’ I've always liked that answer.”

Estes received critical acclaim in 2004 for his debut feature film, Mean Creek, which won several awards, including the Humanitas Prize and two Independent Spirit Awards, and was praised by critic Roger Ebert as "a rare film about moral choices."

Estes explained how the idea for his new film came about.

“I wanted to do a movie about what it's like to ‘be an adult.’ This was in rebellion to my first film, which had been focused on childhood issues. Mean Creek was about children who were in an adult situation.

The Details, on the other hand, is about how adults can act like children, or like silly little animals, driven by impulses that are, or can be, out of their control.”

Estes noted that one of the biggest challenges--and also biggest attractions--in making The Details was that it doesn’t fit neatly into any genre.

“It presents itself with multiple faces, for instance as "funny" or "weird" or "dramatic," said Estes. “This was intentional, but it made everyone nervous all the time. Movies tend to fit into little boxes, especially in today's corporate-driven marketplace.”

“The root of storytelling for me is usually a small, banal feeling or experience I have--expanded and needled, and made huge and dramatic, to turn it into something worth telling that can keep your attention,” he added. “Like a fantastic lie a child tells to his friends.”

Despite the dynamic mix of actors on the set, Estes noted that he could honestly say it was an absolute pleasure to work with each and every one of them.  

“They brought a power and confidence and willingness to take risks to their parts that I will always be grateful for,” said Estes. “Full on, fully committed...which is just what I wanted from them.”

The advance screening of The Details will take place on Thursday, October 4, beginning at 7 p.m. in UCSC’s Media Theater. Admission is free and open to the public at the door (seating is limited). This event is presented by the UCSC Arts Division and Film and Digital Media Department.