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Trust

Directed by Hal Hartley. Starring Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Merritt Nelson, Edie Falco, John Mckay.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 13, 1991

Papa don't preach. A bratty, teenaged girl informs her parents that she's pregnant and plans to drop out of high school and have the baby. She slaps her dad and, before the opening credit sequence is over, Dad keels over from a heart attack and dies. So where else is left for this movie to go? Well, Maria's mom kicks her out of the house, the high school football jock/father of the baby rejects her plans for settling down and when she bums five dollars from a stranger so she can buy a six-pack of beer (because it's been a rough day), the clerk molests her as compensation for selling liquor to a minor. And so it goes. By the time she meets up with Matthew, who's a little bit older than Maria but just as much a misfit, these two lost, frustrated souls are a perfect match. We're introduced to Matthew as he's flipping out because of the shoddy materials being used at the computer assembly plant where he works and to emphasize his point, he sticks his supervisor's head in a vise and walks off the job. Like the grenade he always carries, Matthew's got a short fuse. One thing that Maria and Matthew share is that they both have monsters for parents. Welcome to suburbia, baby. Trust treads a line between lurid soap opera histrionics and placid documentary reportage. It creates a strange tone, one that is denatured and defamiliarized. Dialogue is frequently delivered at this rapid-fire Howard Hawks-like clip, though the words themselves are stripped of any emotional content, spoken as they are with flat intonations. Shots are composed tightly, lending it even more of a claustrophobic and melodramatic look. It's kind of like a Hawks screwball comedy meeting up with a Warhol psychodrama. Yet somewhere in all this suburban strangeness is real pain and turmoil. It's a world where nurses keep bottles of Dewar's on their desks, babies are snatched from their strollers in the blink of an eye, a long line of people queue up outside a TV repair shop clutching their broken sets, parents behave like the despotic monsters of fairy tales. There's a serious teen angst movie somewhere in all this as well as an unflinching look at suburbia. With this, his second feature, director Hartley is fast becoming the new poet laureate of suburban youth. While Trust is tighter and more controlled than his earlier feature, The Unbelievable Truth, they both display his overriding concerns with The Big Questions, which by their very nature are unanswerable. Papa don't preach.
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