Trust The Man

on August 18, 2006 by Kevin Courrier
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In his first two features, 1997's "The Myth of Fingerprints" and 2001's "World Traveler," writer/director Bart Freundlich showed a restless intelligence in examining the frustrations of people unable to stay content with their choices in life. What he didn't reveal was a dynamic, energetic filmmaking style to match those deeper personal issues he was exploring. His new film is also marred by the same flat and visually uninspired direction of his previous movies, only this time, the script and the cast compensate considerably. "Trust the Man" is a wonderfully buoyant and engaging ensemble comedy about the frustrations brought on by love and marriage.

Set in contemporary New York, the film centers on Rebecca (Julianne Moore), a popular stage actress who spurns the sexual advances of her incessantly horny house-husband Tom (David Duchovny). Out of frustration, Tom has an affair with a single mother (Eva Mendes) whom he meets at his child's daycare. Meanwhile, Rebecca's brother, Tobey (Billy Crudup), a good-natured neanderthal, is in a long-term relationship with Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a children's writer who's beginning to long for a child herself. Unfortunately, Tobey is too concerned with death to consider having a committed family life with Elaine. As both couples spin out of control, "Trust the Man" examines how both men desperately try to reach the women they deeply love.

Although Freundlich has always worked with terrific ensemble casts, this one sings much more harmoniously. David Duchovny has never been so self-effacingly funny as he contends with a perpetual itch that he can't scratch. Julianne Moore (Freundlich's wife) gives an astonishingly controlled performance that's both radiant and as coarse as sandpaper. Maggie Gyllenhaal has some of the off-beat charm and beauty of a young Diane Keaton. Billy Crudup, who gave a remarkable and unheralded performance last year in "Stage Beauty," is equally terrific as a boy trapped in a man's body. (He suggests a mild-mannered Jack Black.) "Trust the Man" earns its good faith with the audience. Starring Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Billy Crudup and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Directed and written by Bart Freundlich. Produced by Sidney Kimmel and Tim Perell. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for language and sexual content. Running time: 103 min

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