One has to give writer-director Bart Freundlich credit for
attempting new things with each of his feature films.
THE MYTH
OF FINGERPRINTS
, his 1997 debut, focused on a dysfunctional
family celebrating Thanksgiving (and who among us couldn't
relate to that?). I think I was probably one of the few critics who
praised his 2001 sophomore effort,
WORLD TRAVELER. In fact,
even though there were some minor flaws, I placed it on my
Ten Best list, for which I caught a lot of flak. Now, five years
later, Freundlich offers a gentle comedy of romance and marriage
called
TRUST THE MAN that isn't quite up to his best work, but
still has a lot going for it, chiefly its strong cast. (I somehow
missed his third movie, 2004's
CATCH THAT KID.)

  
TRUST THE MAN follows two Manhattan couples who
are struggling in their relationships. There's movie star Rebecca
(Julianne Moore, who happens to be Mrs. Freundlich offscreen)
and her stay-at-home husband Tom (David Duchovny). Rebecca
is a bundle of neurosis as she's preparing to return to the stage
after success on the big screen. Despite (or perhaps) because of
two children, the marriage has become stale. The couple make
a yearly visit to a counsellor (Garry Shandling in a cameo
appearance) and bicker over how much or how little sex they
are having, depending on whose point of view.

  In contrast to them are Rebecca's younger brother Tobey
(Billy Crudup), a man-child who lives with aspiring children's book
writer Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Their long-term relationship
is at an impasse because Elaine is feeling the ticking of her
biological clock and Tobey -- well, he barely seems to be able
to care for himself, let alone another person. Adding to the
situation is the fact that Tom and Tobey are best friends.

  Freundlich has created four rather unique and amusing
characters who aren't always admirable, but who are decidedly
human. Reportedly, he wrote the roles for the actors who play
them. As much as I love Julianne Moore's work, I do feel that
comedy is not her strongest suit. She's terrific in the dramatic
parts but when she's called on to shoulder the humor, she
sometimes comes off a bit stiff.

  Duchovny manages to make the most of his role as a
Mr. Mom-type who feels neglected by his spouse. Having given
up a formerly high-powered career in advertising, he's content
to spend his days chauffeuring the kids to school and surfing
the Internet for porn. When a divorced mother (Dagmar
Dominczyk) shows an interest, it's no wonder he responds.
(As an in-joke, her son is played by Caleb Freundlich, the
director and star's oldest child.)

  In support, Crudup offers his loosest on screen
performance yet. He displays a goofy, amusing side that
hasn't been evident in much of other work. He and Duchovny
have a great rapport and are quite believable as best friends.
Crudup also has great chemistry with Gyllenhaal, who shows
a warmth that hasn't been as evident in much of her earlier
work.

  TRUST THE MAN contains some nice moments, particularly
an amusing dinner party, but it is marred by an ending that feels
inconsistent with the rest of the movie.


                Rating:            B -
                MPAA Rating:    R for language and sexual content
                Running time:   101 mins.

                    Viewed at the Fox Screening Room
Trust the Man
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.