Trust the Man
February 7, 2007
Trust the Man (2006) is a romantic comedy set in New York City so we’re on familiar ground. We knew what to expect because we’ve seen so many of these kinds of movies: white, affluent New Yorkers with relationship problems. Which means that this film is going to have to work extra hard in order to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack.
Right from the get-go we’re on shaky ground as Rebecca (Moore) and Tom (Duchovny) are married with two kids, one of whom is the requisite precocious child (this one has washroom issues). They see a therapist (once a year) to work out the kinks in their relationship. She works as an actress and he’s a stay-at-home dad. Rebecca’s brother Tobey (Crudup) will move his car over to the other side of the street but won’t drive his girlfriend Elaine (Gyllenhaal) to a very important meeting. He really can’t be bothered to be an active participant in their relationship. Both couples are having unhappy sex lives and they clearly don’t communicate well with each other.
Elaine seems like such a smart woman so why does she put up with Tobey’s lame excuses and slacker shtick? Tobey sees a therapist and they talk about his fear of death – shades of countless Woody Allen characters with the one from Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) coming immediately to mind. Elaine wants to get married and have a child while Tobey is too much of one to want that kind of responsibility.
Unable to find the time or desire for sex with each other, Tom worries that he’s an addict while Rebecca seems to have little interest in it – at least with him. And so they begin to show interest in other people – she finds herself attracted to an enthusiastic twentysomething in her acting group and he flirts with a sexy single mom at his kids’ school.
While Julianne Moore is a superb dramatic actress, comedy is just not her forte as Evolution (2001) and Laws of Attraction (2004) proved. She tries another stab at the genre with Trust the Man but to no avail. For example, there is a scene where her character is supposed to be getting ready to have sex with her husband and ends up stuffing her face with cake like a pig. It gets so bad that she starts choking and he has to apply the Heimlich maneuver on her so that she can spit up the lodged chunk of food (which is really attractive). The scene is supposed to be funny but it’s actually disgusting and so sad to see someone of Moore’s caliber reduced to petty, gross-out humour.
David Duchovny, on the other hand, has excellent comic timing with a killer deadpan delivery of dialogue (honed by years of being on The X-Files). But even he’s reduced to mindless slapstick as his character is nailed in the balls not once but three times during the course of the movie. On the plus side, James Le Gros has a scene-stealing cameo as a New Age musician who is one step away from running his own natural food store. He’s such an underrated character actor (see Living in Oblivion) and ends up being responsible for the film’s funniest moments, which, sadly, are few and far between.
Basically, you just want to grab these people and tell them to get over themselves. Trust the Man presents some very real and tangible problems that people have to deal with all the time but does so in such a tired and clichéd way that we’ve seen before. Why should we care about these people and their problems? And therein lies the problem of this movie. The four leads play unlikable characters that are self-absorbed but not in a funny way, like Seinfeld. Trust the Man had the potential to be very funny and insightful but instead comes across as cold leftovers from other, better New York romantic comedies.
There is an audio commentary by writer/director Bart Freundlich and actor David Duchovny. The two men have been good friends for awhile and had always wanted to do a comedy together. Freundlich wanted to make New York City almost like another character, like in old Woody Allen films. He points out that Billy Crudup is also a close friend and that Julianne Moore is his wife. In fact, a lot of family and friends appear in this film as he points out in the opening credits sequence. To add to the chummy vibe, they point out that Garry Shandling (who has a cameo in the movie) is a good friend of Duchovny’s. Freundlich also speaks at length about the challenges of shooting on location in the city that gets tedious after awhile but fortunately Duchovny breaks things up occasionally with his dry wit which comes as welcome relief.
Also included are four deleted scenes with optional commentary by Freundlich and actor Duchovny. The director says that he wanted to keep the story moving and that these scenes slowed things down. One fleshes out the brother-sister relationship between Tobey and Rebecca and there’s a funny bit with John Carroll Lynch as a doctor that Tom sees.
Finally, there is “Reel Love: The Making of Trust the Man” that features the cast raving about the smart and funny script (?!) and how it harkens back to classic Woody Allen films that were relationship driven. This is a pretty standard featurette as the cast talk about their characters with lots of clips from the movie to pad things out.