- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

Most romantic comedies throw up some sort of barrier between the hopeful couple. It may be a disapproving parent, some social more, or even a current spouse. Whatever it is, it’s often external. But what if it’s the man himself that’s the problem?

That’s the idea behind “Trust the Man,” the latest cinematic collaboration between writer-director Bart Freundlich and his wife, actress Julianne Moore.

The comedy centers on two New York couples. Miss Moore is Rebecca, a movie star making a nervous return to the stage. Husband Tom (David Duchovny) left his advertising job to rear the kids. Their marriage seems successful; Tom’s only complaint is the frequency of lovemaking.

Rebecca’s brother Tobey (Billy Crudup) is still a child himself, though he’s approaching 40. While comfortable with his girlfriend, aspiring writer Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal), he’s not committed: He won’t even give up a parking spot to drive her to work.

Rebecca and Elaine, far more successful than their partners, come to question whether these men deserve them.

Elaine realizes that Tobey isn’t ready to grow up. “I want to get married and have a baby. And you don’t,” she says in a moment of clarity. “I have wasted seven years of my life with you.”

Rebecca senses that Tom, though a devoted father, is finding sexual satisfaction elsewhere.

This is Mr. Freundlich’s first comedy, but shouldn’t be his last. “Trust the Man” is quite funny, even if it isn’t quite the “sophisticated” comedy that the press notes claim: The movie begins with a child’s bathroom problems.

While the filmmaker’s comic touch is inconsistent, he should be applauded for creating such a real comedy, one that finds its humor in the everyday rather than contrived situations.

“Trust’s” sexual situations here are as bumbling as they can be in reality; what in other hands might be juvenile humor here gets a more adult touch. One of the funniest scenes comes when Tom asks Rebecca to narrate a porn video. He hopes for sexy; he gets clinical.

Mr. Duchovny and Miss Moore, who starred together in “Evolution,” seem like they’ve known each other forever and are completely convincing as a couple. Mr. Crudup and Miss Gyllenhaal hold their own against the more experienced pair, whom they look to for advice the latter aren’t able to give. The tangled relationships of these four very different people are always believable.

Notable cameos help. Comedian Garry Shandling almost seems wasted with just a few minutes of screen time as a bumbling marriage counselor, while perfect straight man Bob Balaban plays the perfect straight man as Tobey’s put-upon shrink. Ellen Barkin is steamy as an editor more interested in Elaine’s body than her “body of work.”

“Trust the Man’s” ending is, like so many of the genre, rather too tidy. But Mr. Freundlich does a good job in the rest of the movie showing that real life never is.

**1/2

TITLE: “Trust the Man”

RATING: R (language and sexual content)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Bart Freundlich

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes

WEB SITE: www.foxsearchlight.com/trusttheman

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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