Trust the Man review by Mike Long

If you've read my stuff in the past, you may have noticed that I'm not the biggest fan of "slice of life" films. I don't know why, but movies which portray people going about their daily lives never interest me, probably because their lives are no more exciting than mine. But, there is an exception to every rule and every once in a while, a "slice of life" movie comes along which piques my curiosity. Be it something like Clerks, or In Her Shoes, a likable "slice of life" movie isn't unheard of. Trust the Man features a semi-realistic look at relationships and offers enough laughs and heart to make it worth a look.

Trust the Man focuses on the lives of four people living in Manhattan. Rebecca is a successful actress (of both stage and screen) who is married to Tom (David Duchovny), who has left advertising to a be a stay-at-home dad to the couple's two children. Rebecca's brother Tobey (Billy Crudup) is a sports writer, who lives with Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an aspiring children's book author. Rebecca is close to her brother and Tom and Tobey are best friends.

As the film progresses, we learn more and more about these couples. Tobey and Elaine have been together for seven years. Elaine wants to get married and have children, but Tobey, who is fixated on death, doesn't like thinking in absolutes. Tom is happy with his decision to stay home at first, but he soon finds himself flirting with one of the mothers at his son's school. Rebecca is working on a new play and feels that she's not devoting enough time to her marriage. Tobey keeps running into college flame, Faith (Eva Mendes), and he can't help but think about her. Married or not, can these two couples survive the pressures of modern life?

On the surface, Trust the Man is the standard "slice of life" romantic comedy. Typically, these films are very heavy on the "slice of life" and quite light on the comedy. In fact, most of them aren't the least bit funny. This film wants to be serious about its subject, and does succeed at times, but for the most part, this is a comedy. And not only is it a comedy, it's a very silly comedy in some moments.

In reviews, I typically try to list my reasons for why someone would or wouldn't want to see a movie, but with Trust the Man, I can be very specific. If you don't like David Duchovny, then you probably won't like this movie. If you don't like movies where the actors appear to be having a ton of fun, then you won't like this movie. Duchovny is friends with Trust the Man writer/director Bart Freundlich, who is married to star Julianne Moore. While watching the film, it's very clear that the participants are enjoying themselves. Those familiar with Duchovny know that he can shed his dour demeanor from The X-Files and show a smirking, smartass sense of humor. The last 1/3 of Trust the Man takes on a serious tone, but the beginning of the movie is very lighthearted and Duchovny provides some laugh-out-loud moments. The bigger surprise is Billy Crudup, who is better known for dramatic roles, but he has some funny moments in the film.

I hate to pigeon hole movies, but Trust the Man will certainly appeal to anyone who is married or is in a long-term relationship. The movie contains some insights into relationships which are dead on, and these result in some "funny because it's true" lines. There's a scene in which Tom and Rebeeca's planned sex night goes wrong which is just priceless.

The problem with Trust the Man is that it's incredibly uneven. Again, at the outset, the movie is very funny and light. As the story progresses, we get a sense that all is not bliss with these couples, but the serious turn of the film's second half is sudden and jarring. The way in which the movie becomes dead serious just doesn't jibe with the fun and improvised feel of the first chapters. Then, Freundlich must have been unsure how to end the movie because the finale is simply ludicrous. (Although, there is a very subtle visual cue which calls back an earlier line in the film which really hit home with me.) This uneven nature may alienate some viewers who were either in the mood for a comedy or a serious film, but not one which unsuccessfully mixes the two.

In the end, the funny and real moments in Trust the Man are able to overcome the movie's inability to mix comedy and drama. The cast is great, and beyond the principal cast, we get fun cameos from Garry Shandling, Bob Balaban (uncredited), James Le Gros, and Jim Gaffigan. Couples should love the movie, as will those who enjoyed the wacky Mulder episodes of The X-Files. And here again, we have a fairly good movie which only played on 38 screens before going to DVD, and Little Man plays in every theater in America. Where is the justice?

Trust the Man romances its way onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the movie. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks a bit flat and a tad dark at times, but otherwise this is good transfer. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or any notable defects from the source material. The colors are good and the framing appears to be accurate. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Being a comedy/drama, there's not a ton of great audio effects, but crowd and street noises do produce some nicely subtle surround sound effects. More importantly, the dialogue is always clear and audible.

The Trust the Man contains a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from writer/director Bart Freundlich and actor David Duchovny. Again, this pair are friends and this is a fun commentary. Freundlich points out locations and comments on actors while Duchovny accuses him of attempting to score free meals by mentioning every New York City restaurant that he can. The DVD contains 4 DELETED SCENES with optional commentary from Freundlich and Duchovny. These scenes run about 10 minutes and are mostly fluff, but there are some good lines here. But the "vibrating balls" scene goes on forever and should have been cut from the deleted scenes. "Reel Love: The Making of Trust the Man" is a 13-minute featurette which offers comments from the cast and crew. Freundlich says that he wanted to capture a "Woody Allen feel" with the movie. The cast talk about their characters and the themes of the film.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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