Trust the Man

Trust the Man
Director: Bart Freundlich
Screenplay: Bart Freundlich
Stars: David Duchovny (Tom), Julianne Moore (Rebecca), Billy Crudup (Tobey), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elaine), Eva Mendes (Faith), Dagmara Dominczyk (Pamela), Ellen Barkin (Norah), Garry Shandling (Dr. Beekman)
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2006
Country: U.S.
Trust the Man
Trust the ManThere is such a delicate, fine line between romantic comedies in which couples realistically and understandably work through obstacles to find happiness in the end and romantic comedies in which couples act ridiculously and childishly before finding happiness in the end. Bart Freundlich’s Trust the Man falls quite squarely into the latter category.

The story gives us two comfortably affluent New York couples: Tom (David Duchovny) and Rebecca (Julianne Moore) and Tobey (Billy Crudup) and Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Tom has given up an advertising job to be a stay-at-home dad and Rebecca is a successful actress. Tobey is a sports writer whose primary occupation appears to be sitting in his car and Elaine is an editorial assistant with aspirations of becoming a children’s book author. Tom and Rebecca are married, but unhappily because Tom wants sex--a lot more sex--than Rebecca is willing to give (which is pretty much nothing). Tobey and Elaine are not married, even though they have been together for seven years, which is causing tension because Tobey doesn’t seem to want to truly settle down whereas Elaine is starting to feel the itch to have children and start a family.

On paper, these are recognizable, realistic, human problems. However, the way the characters’ problems are played out on-screen drains them of any emotional involvement, reducing real problems to a series of behavioral ticks that make them more irritating than endearing. We have two childish men, two frustrated women, and absolutely no chemistry among any of them.

Freundlich wants to spin each of the character’s neuroses into comedic moments, but most of the film’s comedy is uneven at best, head-scratching at worst. What are we to make, for example, of a scene in which Tom asks Rebecca to narrate to him the on-screen happenings in a porn video while he masturbates? Yes, this shows his sexual desperation, and yes, it allows for some chuckles when Rebecca begins offering commentary on set décor and the actress’s bad wax job, but overall it is a bizarre and uncomfortable scene that makes little real-world sense. Similarly, there is no justifiable need for a subplot involving Tobey stalking his psychiatrist (Bob Balaban, typically uptight), which takes his character from annoying self-obsessed to downright creepy.

Since Trust the Man is a film about relationships, there has to be infidelity, which comes in the form of a sexy single mom (Dagmara Dominczyk) for Tom and an ex-college-flame (Eva Mendes) for Tobey. Elaine, meanwhile, gets hit on by a lascivious lesbian book editor (Ellen Barkin, camping it up), and Rebecca gets her shoulders rubbed by a young actor (James Le Gros) in a subplot that ultimately goes nowhere.

All of these loose ends and random scenes have the effect of creating a narrative that has little urgency and instead seems like a notebook of half-baked ideas in search of some romantic comedy. Thankfully, Freundlich, whose other films include the heavy family drama The Myth of Fingerprints (1997) and the adolescent action movie Catch That Kid (2004), had the good sense to work with cinematographer Tim Orr, who has shot all of David Gordon Greene’s films. While Trust the Man leaves much to be desired in the narrative department (not the mention the “What does the title mean?” department), at least it looks gorgeous.

Trust the Man DVD

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 / 1.33:1
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround
  • Subtitles English, Spanish, French
  • Audio commentary by writer/director Bart Freundlich and actor David Duchovny
  • “Reel Love: The Making of Trust the Man” featurette
  • Deleted scenes (with optional commentary)
  • Distributor20th Century Fox
    Release DateFebruary 6, 2007

    The flipper disc includes an anamorphic widescreen transfer on one side and a pan-and-scan transfer on the other. Since Freundlich took the trouble to shoot the film in the ’Scope aspect ratio, is best to stay far, far away from the pan-and-scan side of the disc. The widescreen transfer is sharp and colorful, which brings out the richness of cinematographer Tim Orr’s beautiful images of New York. The film was clearly shot during the fall, so the screen is replete with golden, red, and orange hues. Despite the fact that I didn’t find much to like about the story or characters, Trust the Man looks extremely good. On the audio side, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is perfectly suited to the material, with clear dialogue and appropriate multi-channel spaciousness for the musical score.
    The screen-specific audio commentary by director Bart Freundlich and actor David Duchovny is quite enjoyable, more so than the film itself, I would say. Freunchlich and Duchovny are old friends who have been wanting to make a movie together for a long time, so they have a comfortable, easy rapport that generates interesting and often amusing discussion about the making of the film. They also throw in lots of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that Julianne Moore still wears a retainer to bed. Also on the disc are four deleted scenes (in nonanamorphic widescreen) with optional commentary by Freundlich and Duchovny, as well as “Reel Love: The Making of Trust the Man,” a 13-minute featurette that features interviews with Freundlich and all the main cast members and lots and lots of clips.

    Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick

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    All images copyright © 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

    Overall Rating: (2)

    James Kendrick

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