Writer and director Bart Freundlichs first stab at comedy, Trust the Man, follows the romantic tribulations of two unobjectionably charming New York City couples. Rebecca (Julianne Moore) is an actress who finds her husband Tom (David Duchovny) sexually unappealing since he quit his advertising job to be a stay-at-home-dad. She mentions a few times that because of her successful acting career, people dont realize shes a real woman with real problems. I confess I had that same response to her beauty, which in this film oscillates between quirky and transcendent. But thats not a complaint, exactly.
Couple number two consists of Elaine and Tobey (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Billy Crudup) -- both characters are vaguely writers -- who love each other and have a terrific time together constantly, in the exact way Ive always suspected is going on out there. They not only have hot sex, they have what appears to be fun, happy hot sex. (I mention this only as a note of interest, as in, hey, I learned something. If Maggie Gyllenhaal and Billy Crudup are telling me its possible, I believe them.)
Their problem is that Tobey doesnt want to get married or have kids, and Elaine suddenly does, but we have no idea where the hell that came from, the first third of the movie having been plotless, and the script up till then -- particularly the humor more of a curiosity than a help in explicating character. (Im not sure how to explain it. Its as if an alien who isnt personally familiar with human psychology has translated the lines from a foreign idiom. Kind of like a T.V. sitcom, but not that bad.)
The actors tool around actual West Village digs while the camera pans over the faces of the actual proprietors of actual neighborhood shops. Then the plot kicks in. I dont want to give too much away but the script weirdness is instantly cured. Rebecca reveals a drunken, goofy, indiscriminately boy-crazy side to her personality, and sheds the glassy mystique that had distracted me earlier in the film and seemed to preoccupy her as well. Tom, on the other hand, goes to twelve step meetings for sex addicts, where instead of uncovering his dark side, realizes he is more normal than everyone else. (Could that be because hes not a real person and he doesnt have real problems?) Elaine develops two zany love interests (played by the very funny Glenn Fitzgerald and James Le Gros), and Freundlich tries his hand at slapstick, making for several mountingly funny moments, and a grand finale worthy of the build up.
One last thing: Tobey has a couple brief scenes with an impatient, authoritarian therapist, so Freundlich contributes, albeit modestly, to the vast body of film and literature obtusely misrepresenting what therapy is. Which is great. My view: lets preserve the mystery.
Sarah Bardin writes and lives in New York City.