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21.8.06

Trust the Man

Trust the Man, directed by Bart FreundlichDirector Bart Freundlich's new movie, Trust the Man (released on August 18 -- view the online trailer), tries so hard. It combines things that should make me like it, like its smart New York locations, Julianne Moore in a self-referential role as a famous actress (Rebecca), and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Elaine) and Billy Crudup (Tobey) breaking into an incestuous literary world. Garry Shandling's turn as a slightly creepy marriage counselor -- best line in the movie, "Rebecca, think about having sex with Tom [licks his lips], possibly doggy-style" -- was icing on the cake. Freundlich is about my age and has a son who is a couple years older than Mini-Critic, and the movie seemed like a humorous exploration of the experience of becoming a father that I thought might be like the best film of its kind, John Hughes's She's Having a Baby. Indeed, the scene that David Duchovny (Tom) has with his son, who is seated on the toilet, about burping, farting, and pooping is so true that it must be based on real experience. No one made this clear to me before I became a father, but children need to learn pretty much everything from their parents. That means, quite literally, everything.

Some people like romantic comedies (the "rom-com market," as they say at Premiere) with cloying, tied-up endings, precisely because they crave fantasy. I was moderately entertained by Trust the Man -- because I like movies that are slow and filled with dialogue -- up to the final scene, in which both of the leading couples are reconciled in ways that just rang false. At first, it seemed that Freundlich, who also wrote the screenplay, was going to parody the hackneyed romantic comedy ending, by having Billy Crudup leap in slow motion to knock down the usher trying to prevent Duchovny from reaching his wife on stage. Tragically, he then allowed his movie to descend into the worst kind of weepy sentimentality, as not only one but both couples are publicly reconciled, to the teary approval of the theater audience crowd in premiere formalwear. There are even cheap one-liners from the extras.

In my experience, real reconciliation involves people who retain all the traits that caused the problems in the first place but agree as adults to find a common ground. Then there is the rom-com wet dream of reconciliation: he does want to get married and have kids, after all! Aww! It's a shame, because Freundlich has a talented cast who seemed very much at ease with one another. Julianne Moore, who in real life happens to be married to Bart Freundlich, is at her radiant and intelligent best. Billy Crudup's hilarious Tobey is the person that many men really are inside, making grilled cheese sandwiches on a portable grill in his car, writing an article while he waits to move his beloved vehicle to a parking space on the opposite side of the street at just the right moment. The movie grasps at the same sort of Manhattan whimsy, slightly perverse, that Woody Allen should have trademarked, but ultimately it becomes much more Sleepless in Seattle than When Harry Met Sally.

2 comments:

tin148 said...

This flick could be very interesting. So it's a romantic comedy thing? I love sleepless in seattle. If the movie may somwhat be the same as sleepless, then i will surely adore it.

Charles T. Downey said...

Q.E.D.