Trust the Man
Trust the Man is the fourth feature from director Bart Freundlich, as well as his third attempt to recapture the poetic magic that was his 1997 debut, The Myth of Fingerprints. Since that auspicious start, he's turned out a so-so follow-up, 2001's World Traveler, starring Julianne Moore, the wife he nabbed on the Fingerprints set, and an abysmally bad kids movie, 2004's Catch That Kid, that could've been an abysmally bad Nickelodeon series. Now comes Trust the Man, a comedy with an identity crisis. Is it a zany romantic comedy with fart jokes? Is it a New York drama? Or, most appealingly, is it a character-driven ensemble piece with some heavies to back it up--such as Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup, and Maggie Gyllenhaal?
Freundlich appears to want it to be all of the above. Perhaps the intention was to showcase how commercially viable dialogue, spruced up with some vulgar language and serious marital discord, could be legitimized by serious actors and competent direction. Most of the time, though, you're left scratching your head and wondering how you're supposed to react to the mayhem going on on-screen.
Sexually frustrated stay-at-home dad Tom (Duchovny) is married to sexually aloof celebrated film actress Rebecca (Moore). Rebecca's brother--and Tom's best friend--is lay-about journalist Tobey (Crudup), who lives with, but is not willing to marry, his girlfriend, Elaine (Gyllenhaal). Things fall apart when, 1) Rebecca doesn't give it up regularly enough, so Tom turns to the single mother of one of his kid's classmates for some sexual healing, and, 2) Elaine realizes she wants to get married and have kids and be stable and, you know, the same thing supposedly every woman wants and up and leaves Tobey for a German guy who, despite not being capable of using English plurals correctly, has a big cock. Or so she says.
Silly adults, always thinking with their sex organs. All of this would have worked wonderfully, especially with a cast that gives so much of itself to the material, if Freundlich had written Trust as a sincere art-house flick with dialogue not requiring a smirk to be delivered. Seriously, there's a smirk on someone's face during every scene. Even the numerous celebrity cameos are smirking, like Garry Shandling, Ellen Barkin, and Eva Mendes.
In the end, there is, of course, an impossibly contrived and ridiculously happy ending that if this was a Farrelly Brothers movie might work and be applauded. But not here, not when you've been asked to cry for and truly empathize with the plights of these characters. Freundlich should go back and rewatch Fingerprints to remind himself of what he is capable.