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With: Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Billy Crudup, Eva Mendes, James LeGros, Dagmara Dominczyk, Justin Bartha, Ellen Barkin, Garry Shandling
Written by: Bart Freundlich
Directed by: Bart Freundlich
MPAA Rating: R for language and sexual content
Running Time: 103
Date: 09/12/2005

Trust the Man (2006)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Sex and the Pity

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints), Trust the Man is one of those movies in which everyone is a writer, and all the writing sounds the same. Either that, or it's hidden away from the viewer, as is the case of Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and her children's book.

Additionally, all these writers talk the same. Quite a bit of the dialogue is expositional, which is a lazy writer's trick to pass information across to the audience through characters that already know this same information.

These writers live in Manhattan. Or at least it kind of looks like Manhattan. It feels more like a scrubbed, sanitized Los Angeles back lot with a few second-unit New York shots thrown in-between scenes in a desperate attempt for authenticity. These cutaways have nothing to do with the story; if we see a stoplight or a bakery, the odds are that the characters are all the way across town from it.

Even the title, Trust the Man, couldn't be duller. Anyone looking up a movie listing in the newspaper is liable to skim right over it; it doesn't mean anything.

Trust the Man introduces us to two couples. Tom (David Duchovny) is a stay-at-home dad and his wife Rebecca (Julianne Moore -- coincidentally married to Freundlich) is a successful actress. Rebecca's brother Tobey (Billy Crudup) is a freelance journalist who writes about baseball and fishing; he lives with -- but is not married to -- children's author Elaine.

Both relationships fall apart over the course of the film, and each soulmate is tempted by the fruit of another. Tom meets hottie single mom Pamela (Dagmara Dominczyk) at the children's school; cast in the play with Elaine, Jasper (Justin Bartha) begins openly flirting with her; Tobey meets an old college flame, Faith (Eva Mendes), now married; and Elaine meets a flakey, folk singer (James LeGros). (Elaine gets a second test when a sexy female publisher, played by Ellen Barkin, comes on to her.)

Freundlich plays his cards close to the surface, with no room for mystery or silence. Each character speaks almost constantly on cell phones, expressing their innermost thoughts over satellite.

The basic point is that both men are juvenile and both women are patient saints. It's the men's job to learn how to grow up and win back their beloveds. But even the climactic spilling-their-guts scene -- set not too surprisingly at the opening night of Rebecca's play -- smacks of juvenilia.

Despite all this blandness, the actors still manage to find more than a few moments of inspiration, and they share a genuine chemistry. Duchovny and Crudup dive into their roles with a sense of bemusement, playing into their maleness with a relaxed joy. Freundlich doesn't seem to understand his women in quite the same way, but Moore and Gyllenhaal lend gravity and humanity to their roles.

It's nice that these actors felt comfortable with their director, but the next step is that Freundlich needs to become more comfortable with himself.

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