Trust the Man
2006, R, 103 min. Directed by Bart Freundlich. Starring David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Garry Shandling, Eva Mendes, Ellen Barkin, James LeGros.
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., Sept. 1, 2006
With distinct echoes of Woody Allen, Trust the Man follows fashionably neurotic New Yorkers in oversized apartments as they search for happiness, love, and sex. As Moore’s husband and father of their two children, writer/director Freundlich keeps it personal with the character of Tom (Duchovny): a writer, stay-at-home dad, and husband to successful actress Rebecca (Moore). Repeatedly rebuffed in the bedroom by his stressed-out wife, the sexually obsessed Tom searches for Internet porn while Rebecca trots off to rehearsals for her new play. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s brother Tobey (Crudup) and his girlfriend of seven years, Elaine (Gyllenhaal), have cleverly bantered troubles of their own. The wry and death-obsessed Tobey insists that the world is against him while constantly missing his girlfriend’s not-so-subtle hints about marriage and babies. The two couples tease and exchange bons mots galore. Eventually, Tom’s search for satisfaction leads him to stray and Elaine wises up, realizing her sardonic mate is an overgrown child and kicks him out. Finally, the men must grow up and the women must learn to love their men. A New York movie through and through, the film is awash with neurotic therapists and cold city streets (a welcome escape during our endless summer). Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints) is at his best when portraying domestic comedy, including one hilarious episode involving Moore and an oversized piece of cake. But the film never effectively finds its voice or emotional resonance. While many of the plot developments seem to exist exclusively as setups for a joke, too frequently that joke isn’t so great. Though the story sporadically affects genuine emotion, Freundlich isn’t able to dig too deep in his soul-searching. When Tom sees a subway advertisement for a sex addicts support group bearing the question, “Do you feel empty, lost, and always craving more?” the message evokes a witty poignancy, but these semicompelling themes never amount to more than window dressing. There are a handful of laugh-out-loud moments: LeGros is a kick as a singer-songwriter, and Duchovny and Crudup make a nice comedy duo. But a relationship dramedy wields little power without an emotional punch. And when the theatrical (literally) climax attempts bold emotionality, one can’t help but wince.