There are few films I have found as annoying as Bart Freundlich's "Trust the Man". Starring his wife, Julianne Moore, their friend, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup and Maggie Gyllenhaal, the film tells the story of two couples in New York dealing with marital problems. Sprinkle in some "wacky" character traits, some "funny" observations and "richly observed" dialogue and you begin to get the idea of the problem. Freundlich is making a completely artificial film, based on real life events, trying to make them funny, but everything comes across as obnoxious and phony.
Rebecca (Moore), an actress, and Tom (Duchovny), a former advertising wunderkind, are married with two children. As Rebecca begins rehearsals on a new play at Lincoln Center (we learn she turned down a film to star in the play), Tom stays at home to watch the kids (a baby and a three year old) and ruminate about how horny he is. They go to see a counselor (Garry Shandling) and discuss their sexual problems; Rebecca thinks Tom is a maniac because he wants to have sex twice a day. Her brother, Tobey (Crudup) is in a long term relationship with Elaine (Gyllenhaal), Rebecca's best friend, who suddenly hears her biological clock ticking and realizes she wants to be married and have a child. This is not good news for commitment phobic Tobey who writes magazine articles and would rather camp out in his car grilling cheese sandwiches.
Each member of each couple will be tempted by another person, some will have an affair. Can all four fix their relationships? Do you care?
"Trust the Man", written and directed by Freundlich, appears to be at least partially autobiographical. Because Moore headlines the film and it co-stars their friend Duchovny, it gives the film a creepy vibe it wasn't necessarily going for. Instead of portraying an interesting, funny part of their lives, it merely makes them seem like they are possibly working out their marriage therapy on film. And we get to pay to watch the effort.
The problem with "Man" isn't the subject matter, many a great film has been made about relationships, it is with the tone and mood of the story. Rather than try to find any real drama or humor in these relationships, everyone is just slightly off center and has some wacky traits, meant to heighten the laughs. Instead, it just seems phony. When the film opens, Tom and Rebecca are having breakfast with their kids. Their older son is in the bathroom, on the toilet, talking about how he has to poop, but can't. His dad says "well, sometimes passing gas can help". But the little boy is not convinced and says his stomach hurts. This whole scene is meant to be funny, but it merely comes across as extremely annoying. The little boy is way too precocious and the conversation is just stomach churning.
Throughout, every time one of the characters even approaches a behavior that might be considered 'real', they then do something 'funny' or make a 'witty' comment, completely ruining the character and making them seem like a reject from a bad television sitcom. Why does Crudup's character sit in his car, writing on a laptop, grilling cheese sandwiches? Why does Duchovny's character seem obsessed with sex? When he wants to have sex, he brings out a tape. Moore responds "if that is one of your tapes, you can just forget it". For that matter, why is she so frigid?
Just as the film seems as though it might actually have something to say about these characters, it resorts to broad comedy. For instance, when they visit the counselor (Shandling), he gives them advice which is meant to elicit laughter, but because it has no basis in reality, it doesn't work.
Do people in New York really behave like this? The film depicts such a small part of the demographic that I have difficulty understanding why the studio decided to make this film. How are people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, Chicago supposed to relate? I really have my doubts that this film would be popular even in New York, but if this is the case, the film would be best presented as an off-Broadway play. That way, the people who might like this film can enjoy it without subjecting it on the public at large.
Late in the film, after both couples have broken up, they will, inevitably get back together again. This whole sequence, at the Lincoln Center, seems more reminiscent of a Marx Brothers film, rather than a sensitive film about the relationships. The characters run around the theater, screaming at each other, doing double takes, mugging. It is a truly awful way to end the film and completely ruins any feeling of reality these characters may have been able to create.
Long story short, don't "Trust" the man. This is a dreadful, unfunny, smug film that deserves to die a quick death.