David Duchovny as Tom
Julianne Moore as Rebecca
Billy Crudup as Tobey
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Elaine
Eva Mendes as Faith
Ellen Barkin as Norah
Justin Bartha as Jasper
James LeGros as Dante
Dagmara Dominczyk as Pamela
Kate Jennings Grant as Sex addict
Liam Broggy as David
Glenn Fitzgerald as Goren
Todd M. Hofacker as Nigel
Josh Ruben as Elaine’s Brother
Garry Shandling as Dr. Beekman
Teresa Yenque as María
Directed by Bart Freundlich
This misguided comedy often falters in its attempt to find humor in the mundane lives of shallow New Yorkers. It’s pretty disappointing considering Freundlich’s previous fare and the caliber of his cast.
Tom (David Duchovny) is a stay-at-home dad married to a popular actress (Julianne Moore), while his best friend and her younger brother Tobey (Billy Crudup) has lived for eight years with the hard-working Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal) but won’t commit to the relationship by marrying her. This is what happens when these four New Yorkers decide to explore other options.
You would hope that given the chance to flex his writing muscles into the world of relationship comedy, filmmaker Bart Freundlich would be able to come up with something fairly interesting or original. After all, his surprisingly long marriage to actress Julianne Moore has always been a bit of a mystery, and the chance to peer into their lives somehow sounds appealing, even if it’s not something you might think worthy of turning into a comedy.
“Trust the Man” does little to dispel the myths that Freundlich stays at home with the kids while his wife, the actress, is out working, because that’s pretty much the situation of David Duchovny’s Tom, which one must presume to be Freundlich’s alter-ego in this story. Then again, Tom’s brother-in-law Tobey (Billy Crudup) is also staying at home, a freelance writer trying to do something while his girlfriend Elaine brings home the bacon. Tom is dissatisfied with the lack of regular sex in his marriage, while Elaine is unhappy with her slacker boyfriend’s inability to commit, and eventually, these issues will drive a wedge in their relationships and have them seeking what they want from other people.
Who knows where things went wrong with this fairly by-the-books relationship comedy, but for the most part, “Trust the Man” ends up coming across like a disjointed series of vignettes barely held together by a running story about two dysfunctional relationships, with the men trying to better themselves to meet the expectations of the women they love. It’s nothing new, as these types of relationship speed bumps have been explored in comedies and dramas since the dawn of cinema, but this one seems to be coming from a strange place, taking parts from real life situations and then twisting them into something surprisingly unfunny.
A lot of the humor is fairly low-brow, literally delving into bathroom humor in the first scene with Tom having a conversation with his young son while he is sitting on the toilet. From there, Freundlich tries to be edgy by throwing in lots of raunchy sex talk, most of which detracts from the real issues, making the characters seem one-dimensional. The movie is filled with this type of obvious humor and situations that we’ve seen so many times before on “Sex and the City” and “Coupling.” There really is no new territory covered here that hasn’t been addressed before, and after a while it starts to get tiring.
Billy Crudup does far better than the other actors in terms of making his slacker character somewhat believable and entertaining, delivering his jokes in a way that makes a greater percentage of them work. David Duchovny does his normal schtick, as does Gyllenhaal, while Julianne Moore takes things so far over-the-top in an attempt to make the stale material funnier that it’s almost embarrassing. Then again, the two funniest moments in the movie put Moore in embarrassing situations, as she’s hit in the face with a spoon by her son in one scene and graphically describes porn to her husband in another.
Various supporting characters pop in and out, either to offer a bit of comic relief or temptation for the four main characters. These include Eva Mendes as a very hot and flirtatious married woman; ditto Dagmara Dominczyk, who has an affair with Tom. The ubiquitous James Le Gros, who only seems to be in this movie to maintain some sort of indie cred, plays an odd ball new age musician, while Justin Bartha, who stole many scenes in the awful studio comedy “Failure to Launch,” tones down his own natural humor to play a young admirer of Moore’s character. However you look at it, the men get the better bargain in terms of hooking up with appealing women, compared to the dopey morons that their women end up with. This sad fact furthers the already blatantly male-driven nature of this movie. The better scenes often involve cameos by the likes of Bob Balaban and Gary Shandling as therapists trying vainly to help these shallow characters with their issues, but far too often, the movie resorts to slapstick physical humor to get laughs, something that none of the cast are particularly strong at.
Freundlich is also likely to garner the ire of Edward Burns, by treading on the same territory claimed by Burns ever since Woody Allen went Euro on us, that being the New York romantic comedy. The entire movie acts as a travelogue of the hip and trendy places in New York, but those settings often overshadow the characters and their story.
The whole thing barely comes back together at the end with a ridiculously sappy ending that seems to have been taken directly from Romantic Comedy Screenwriting 101. By that point, the characters have become so annoying that you wish that they didn’t get their predictable and undeserved happy ending.
The Bottom Line:
The movie is a disappointment, because Bart Freundlich seems to have deliberately tried to make the most mainstream romantic comedy he possibly could make, turning his back on his independent sensibilities and roots. Most of it just isn’t funny, and considering how many of his friends were involved in the making of this movie, you would think that something would have been said, because friends should never let other friends make bad comedies.