Do you enjoy watching smug, self-involved, upper-class New Yorkers complain about their problems, most of which are their own fault? Then take a cab from your wood-floored Upper West Side apartment down to the nearest movie house and catch a showing of “Trust the Man.” It’s the whiniest comedy Woody Allen never made!
Bart Freundlich is the writer and director, and he has cast his wife, Julianne Moore, and their buddy David Duchovny in the lead roles. Moore and Duchovny are Rebecca and Tom, she a famous actress now rehearsing for a play, he an advertising guru who has recently quit to be a househusband. They have two young children and a marriage that is mostly happy, though Tom wants to have sex more often than Rebecca does.
Tom’s best friend, and Rebecca’s brother, is Tobey (Billy Crudup), another one of those lovable 30-year-old man-children we see so many of in films these days. He’s been dating Rebecca’s friend Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal) for several years but has no interest in marrying her, much less in going along with her wishes to produce a child. Like Vince Vaughn in “The Break-Up” earlier this year, Tobey only wants to watch SportsCenter, while his girlfriend wants to talk about their relationship and boring stuff like that.
Rebecca’s a rich actress. Tom is a stay-at-home dad. Elaine is publishing a children’s book. Tobey is a magazine writer. They all live in fabulous apartments and have problems with their relationships. Aren’t you simply burning with sympathy?
I’m being sarcastic, but it is a serious problem with the movie: None of these people are relatable. We like the actors (I’ve always been fond of Duchovny’s smart-aleck goofiness), but we don’t like the self-absorbed characters they’re playing, nor do we particularly care about their ill-defined problems.
Freundlich clearly believed he was making a smart, sophisticated comedy, and there are funny moments and good performances here and there. I don’t buy Billy Crudup as a lunk — he’s too sensitive to be convincing at it — but everyone else is solid. Yet having grownups talk about sex does not automatically mean your movie is sophisticated. There must be intelligence in the story and some elegance in the way it is portrayed, and “Trust the Man” is woefully lacking there.
The climactic scene? A public reconciliation in a crowded theater, the likes of which has happened a billion times in movies and not once in real life. Whatever respect we had for the film as a witty and urbane comedy up to that point goes right out the window. I mean, come on, Freundlich. A little originality never hurt anyone.
C- (1 hr., 43 min.; )