Trust the Man (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Trust the Man is the latest feature from Bart Freundlich, who came to many people's attention in 1997 with The Myth of Fingerprints. Since then, Freundlich's resume has been spotty but, based on the $8 million payout by Fox Searchlight for this movie following its debut at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival, there are people out there who like it a lot. As far as I'm concerned, this is a sporadically entertaining motion picture that overstays its welcome. Its strength is its humor, which is half-Seinfeld and half-Sex in the City. There's a reason why those shows ran for only 30 minutes each - it's difficult to sustain comedic momentum for longer, as becomes apparent here.

The film is about two couples in jeopardy. From the outside, Tom (David Duchovny) and his actress-wife Rebecca (Julianne Moore), appear to have a perfect marriage. But there is a problem - Tom loves sex while Rebecca abhors it. This leads him to stray. Meanwhile, Tom's best friend and Rebecca's brother, Tobey (Billy Crudup), is having difficulties with his long-term girlfriend, Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal). She wants marriage and a baby; he likes the status quo. Then another complication enters the relationship in the person of Faith (Eva Mendes), who has designs on Tobey.

When the men of Trust the Man get together, it sounds like Seinfeld. When the women congregate, it's Sex in the City. Although much of Freundlich's comedy works, especially during the first hour, the movie's drama is inert. These characters are not likeable. They are spoiled, lazy, and self-centered (except perhaps Elaine). There's some voyeristic amusement inherent in watching people like this struggle with life's simple issues. But when we are expected to identify with them, Trust the Man loses us.

The performances are all solid, and well-adapted to the material. David Duchnovy gets to shed his Muldur image and play an (almost) average guy. Tom's a loving dad and a grounded individual who just wants more sex. Julianne Moore (Freundlich's real-life wife) has no problems with her character's shifts from comedy to drama. Rebecca's describing porn to Tom is a highlight. Billy Crudup, who normally plays serious roles, shows a capacity for comic timing. And Maggie Gyllenhaal, who seems to be in every other movie being released this summer (one of those distribution quirks that occasionally occurs - see Jude Law, 2004) glows.

Most of the flaws in Trust the Man come during the third act, when Freundlich allows the narrative to overwhelm the lighter, wittier moments. Some directors, like Woody Allen in his prime, can meld drama and humor seamlessly. There are times in Trust the Man when the transitions are awkward, and the final 30 minutes seem stale. Like a few too many of this year's adult offerings, this one is a diversion. It's not unpleasant, but it doesn't offer a "must see" night at the movies.

Trust the Man (United States, 2005)

Director: Bart Freundlich
Cast: David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eva Mendes, Ellen Barkin
Screenplay: Bart Freundlich
Cinematography: Tim Orr
Music: Clint Mansell
U.S. Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Run Time: 1:43
U.S. Release Date: 2006-08-18
MPAA Rating: "R" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1