Just how charming is Trust the Man, writer/director Bart Freundlich's relationship comedy about two New York couples and their bumps in the road?
Let's start with the cast: Julianne Moore, the radiant redhead; David Duchovny, the wry mumbler; the ever-raffish Billy Crudup; and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who seems to wrap her deliciously wide mouth around every word she speaks. These people all have immutable smiles. In fact, they smile with their eyes, and as a moviegoer, you can't take your eyes off them.
They're almost enough to distract you from everything they say and do in Trust the Man, which plays like a mildly R-rated episode of the canceled TV series Related. It's never good when a movie reminds you too much of a show on the WB. It's worse when a capable filmmaker (The Myth of Fingerprints, World Traveler) pauses to navel-gaze and to write something he thinks will please an audience.
But who cares about New York actors, writers and book editors? These aren't exactly the boys and girls next door, and they never rise above benign cliché. Neither do the supporting players: Ellen Barkin as a lesbian, Garry Shandling as a shrink, James LeGros as a flaky musician. For every 10 flaccid jokes in Trust the Man, Freundlich offers a funny one, and the guys have all the good lines. They're overgrown boys (that's one of the jokes), while the women are brooding slaves to their biological clocks.
In the case of Rebecca (Moore), the clock seems to have stopped. Her marriage is in trouble because 40-year-old house-husband Tom (Duchovny), a jaunty porn addict, wants doggie-style sex twice a day, and Rebecca doesn't want any sex at all. Meanwhile, her 36-year-old brother, Toby (Crudup), has lived with Elaine (Gyllenhaal) for seven years, but he won't get married or have kids.
For a while in the middle of Trust the Man, things fall apart: Tom has an affair, Elaine throws Toby out, and so forth. Freundlich even tries a little farce before it's over, having tried everything else. It ends ... as the title presages ... with a wedding and lots of kisses.
The message here seems to be that men are lovable jerks, and women simply have to relax until they grow out of it. When Toby returns to dinner from a restaurant bathroom, he declares, "I finally digested that corn I ate." Is it just me, or is that hilarious? Nevertheless, this is the sort of movie that tries to elevate banality to the level of insight. As I've said, that's why we have television. In the meantime, if you like these actors, go see Trust the Man, which may be the cinema's first chick flick for guys.