Julianne Moore and David Duchovny in Trust the Man.
Since Woody Allen seems to have temporarily abandoned Manhattan for London, writer-director Bart Freundlich attempts to step into the void with Trust the Man, a movie about a group of Manhattanites dealing with love, sex and a sense of their own immortality. While the cast is good and there are quite a few amusing moments, the end result, hampered in part by an over the top ending, is an unstable movie that manages to entertain but never wow you.
The story centers around two couples. Rebecca, an actress preparing for an upcoming play, is married to Tom, a former ad-copywriter who now stays at home to raise his and Rebecca's children. Their marriage seems happy except for their troubles in the bedroom. Rebecca continually refuses to have sex with Tom and yet somehow seems surprised later when he goes outside the marriage to have some.
Tobey is Rebecca's brother and Tom's best friend. He's dating Elaine, who is Rebecca's best friend. Elaine is looking to settle down and start a family, while Tobey is way too obsessed with death and his ex-girlfriend to do anything about it.
After both relationships founder, it is up to the men to rebuild them, since, as in seemingly every love story ever produced by Hollywood, it is the men who are apparently in the wrong. One interesting side story that is never fully explored is the relationship between Rebecca and her younger co-star. He has a crush on her and in a few scenes the movie implies that she has reciprocated something, but it's never spelled out and Tom is the only who seems to have anything to apologize for.
The best moments are the comedic ones. Tom's trip to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting is fairly amusing, although if wanting to have sex with your wife and occasionally looking at porn makes you a sex addict, there would be a lot more people in therapy than there are now.
While most of the story is fairly well grounded in reality, the ending is pure Hollywood. Without giving away the specifics, both relationships are mended in the theater at Lincoln Center in full view of the audience in a farcical and over the top manner that could only happen in a movie.
Like many a Woody Allen movie, Manhattan landmarks are featured throughout the story, from the Village to the Upper West Side. I always enjoy seeing the city in movies, especially when it actually is the city and not Toronto, but in this case it isn't really anything more than eye-candy.
Far from perfect but still somewhat enjoyable, I suppose until Woody returns to making movies here, we'll have to settle for what we can get.
Billy Crudup and David Duchovny in Trust the Man.
I agree Scott, writer/director (and husband of star Julianne Moore) Bart Freundlich, seems to be mimicking Woody Allen with this very New York romantic comedy. His use of locations around the city is very reminiscent of Woody. Another thing that gives it an Allen like quality is the fact that the focus of the story jumps around to each of the four main characters. It's a true ensemble piece with no singular character dominating the storyline. Unfortunately it is nowhere near as good as Allen at his best, lacking his sharp wit and ear for dialogue.
The script paints such a cliched version of male/female romance that it begs a question of Freundlich. Is this how he sees men and women in relationships or is this his interpretation of how he thinks women see men and women in relationships? I ask that because the over-the-top ending that my brother mentioned, is pure chick-flick fantasy. In this world women are mature, if a bit emotionally needy, while men are generally selfish, lacking in a sense of romance, and unable to express their feelings. All it takes for these two couples to end the movie kissing is for the men to make a romantic gesture while spouting platitudes about love.
The cast is good. For the most part it stays a four person show with a couple of famous faces popping up for cameos or bit parts. Eve Mendes has a few scenes as Billy Crudup's ex. Garry Shandling and Bob Balaban are both therapists, and Ellen Barkin plays a lesbian who plants a kiss on Maggie Gyllenhaal. How ironic that David Duchovny plays a man attending Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings. Julianne Moore is a famous actress playing a famous actress. She hugely underplays it. It isn't until the final scene at the theater that she displays her inner Margo Channing. Together the film's two biggest stars lack any chemistry. Gyllenhaal and Crudup fare better and make a far more believable couple. They at least exhibit some passion for one another.
Despite the talents of the cast and the backdrop of the greatest city on the planet, Trust the Man never overcomes its simplistic psychology and decided lack of originality. A fact it seems to acknowledge by way of paying brief tribute to two romantic classics. In one scene a depressed Crudup watches The Way We Were, and later in the movie he yells Gyllenhaal's name in a crowded theater, “Elaine!” just like Dustin Hoffman did in that church at the climax of The Graduate. In the end though the best Trust the Man can muster is to be fairly amusing, and then only sporadically.
Photos © Copyright Fox Searchlight (2006)