Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Trust the Man

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM

Ah, just what the world needed: yet another pseudo indie-flick about neurotic, affluent thirtysomething Manhattanites who whine endlessly about their crumbling relationships while dining at posh downtown eateries. Trust the Man is merely the latest entry in the irritating trend of filmmakers making pale tributes to Woody Allen's glory days.

The negligible storyline follows a pair of couples through the thicket of monogamous malaise as they struggle to keep the home fires burning while pursuing high-profile media careers. The cast is full of attractive and talented actors who do their best to make their characters marginally likable, even as their crippling self-absorption becomes more unbearable with every passing minute. Case in point is Tobey (Billy Crudup), a wisecracking, death-obsessed, perpetual man-child who just can't seem to commit to his adoring longtime girlfriend, aspiring author Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal). His sister Rebecca (Julianne Moore) won't sleep with her husband Tom (David Duchovny) because his unemployment makes him aimless and "desperate" — even though he left his lucrative advertising job to mind the kids while she resumes her acting career. This sort of tortured logic is at the root of every character's problems, and it's the downfall of writer-director Bart Freundlich's script.

Like his hero Woody Allen, Freundlich has a fondness for casting his real-life flame, though he has the good fortune of having the luminous Moore as his wife. He also has a soft spot for broad slapstick, such as pratfalls, potty humor, vomit and two full-on, shirt-soaking spit takes, all of which are out-of-place in a wannabe urban relationship drama. There's also the matter of Tom's porn obsessions, which leads him to a sex addicts meeting full of such kinky fetishists that Tom feels the need to fake an erotic deli meat fixation, just to fit in.

To spice up the drama and round out the running time, numerous romantic temptations are set up like dominoes: Eva Mendes as Toby's fiery college crush, West Bloomfield native Justin Bartha as an actor with a puppy love crush on Rebecca, and Ellen Barkin as a predatory lesbian publisher putting the moves on Elaine. Gyllenhaal gets two more equally ridiculous suitors, a pompous folk rocker (James LeGros) and a pretentious European artist (Glenn Fitzgerald) who lounges around the apartment in his soccer cleats.

None of these distractions amounts to much, and it's always evident that beneath it all, these four people are perfectly suited to blissfully annoy the shit out of each other as long as they live.

Devoid of lasting consequences or meaning, the film is only intermittently enjoyable but not entirely unpleasant, much like a dinner party full of strangers.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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