Monday, August 21, 2006

Trust The Man The Maggie

A REVIEW (of sorts)

This weekend I took in Trust the Man which was an awkward movie. It wants to be an adult comedy and a NYC loveletter and is obviously a fun romp for a famous clique (actress Julianne Moore her husband writer/director Bart Freundlich and several of their close friends) Unfortunately the movie looks like it was more enjoyable for them to make than it is for us to watch.

Take for instance this photograph to your left. This is Julianne with her best friend Ellen Barkin on the set of the film, cupping each others breasts for no apparent reason. (They don't share a scene in the film) I love this photo more than anything in the actual movie because it reminds me of actual silly lived-in friendships and not the movie version of the same.

The clubfooted feel of Trust the Man stems, I think, from the mixing of realism and fluff. It tries to combine R rated dialogue and adult oriented marital issues while also observing the standard unreality of your fluffy "Hollywood" romantic comedy. The ending is a particularly atrocious example of the latter mode --something probably only Julia Roberts could sell. And she'd even have to sweat for it. No one in real life behaves like this. So if you’re going for a movie-ish romantic fantasy that asks you to suspend all disbelief at the climax, you probably shouldn't lead up to it by painting such a faux gritty portrait of frustrating sexual incompatibilities and child rearing duties. Just a suggestion.

That said the film wasn't a complete waste of time. I dig all chances to see Julianne show off her freckles and her husband, the director, obviously loves them too. She looks beautiful, modern, and sexy and I hope it frees up interest in her for roles unrelated to her current rut: The Sad Mother! She plays Rebecca Pollack who one assumes is a closer approximation of herself than any character she's created before. Rebecca is a successful talented movie actress and mother of two who lives in Manhattan with her writer husband. She is considerably more famous and successful than he.

Given the fame enjoyed by Julianne and Bart in real life it proved difficult (for me at least) to divorce these characters "Rebecca and Tom" from them. And I didn't enjoy viewing it as an autobiography. I don't like wondering if Bart cheats on the goddess herself and I don't like thinking of Julianne as an actor that would tell her directors to go f*** themselves, as she does in the film dismissing a very one-dimensional side character. Any number of easy changes to the screenplay might've distanced these characters a bit more from the actual couple we know. One less child. One more child. Rebecca could have been a stage star only rather than a film star doing a play. Why is David Duchovny sporting Bart's hairstyle in the epilogue? Etcetera.

As for Julianne's comedic abilities, a continual cause of fan arguments, I should report that she seems a little more comfortable this time out but not quite there yet. But once again --and I had really never hoped to be reminded of Laws of Attraction, damn you Bart!-- she is forced to shove sweets into her mouth in private for a bit of humiliating slapstick. This time rather than using a public restroom she does it in the privacy of her own kitchen. Over on Adam's blog you can read an interesting theory as to why Julianne Moore isn't so good at this sort of light comedy shtick.

Now long time readers of The Film Experience know that Julianne holds a very special place in my heart. I've met her. I love her almost more than anyone (except you know who obviously). I once saw an interview in which the reporter asked her how she feels about critics and she gave a very respectful answer (don't remember it but it wasn't dumb or dismissive) and then she added that the only thing that upsets her about reviews is when they get personal.

When she said that I felt really guilty about one particular thing I said many years ago in a review but this time I feel no guilt. If you're going to make a movie starring you and your group of friends that's about a group of a friends and seems to be about your marriage, you have to expect that people might bring up your personal lives in their review. I'm just sayin'. Play fair now.

Anywayyyyyyy..... We learned from various junket reports that Maggie Gyllenhaal is the only new member of this filmmaking clique (Even Julianne's most frequent co-star James LeGros--five films together now starting with the masterpiece Safe-- shows up for a comic bit as a former fling of Rebecca's.) This is an insular world we're watching. So perhaps unsurprisingly it's the outsider who is most easily accessible to the audience. Maggie Gyllenhaal, unburdened by the comedic shtick that is parcelled out to her co-stars is nearly luminous and you totally root for her character.

Maggie is following her baby brother Jake's big year with one of her very own. She's got two movies already in theaters (this and World Trade Center) and her Oscarbait lead actress bid arrives soon in the form of Sherrybaby. All that plus she'll soon be delivering "Jake Gyllenhaal's friend Peter Sarsgaard's Baby's Momma's baby"

Busy girl. Fine actress.


Anonymous said...

That's a great picture. I enjoyed it so much I will never need to watch "Trust the Man." Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Adam's theory is pretty sound. I think there are different degrees of awareness in actors. Moore is a pretty cerebral actress so I definitely see the lack of self-awareness in her process.

And, Nately wisely pointed out Julia Roberts as being someone who might have been the only person who could have made it worked. She is perhaps the most self-aware film actress out there (who I can stand ... at least, some of the time).

adam k. said...

For a second I thought "you know who" might be The Boyfriend. Haha. Silly me. What was I thinking.

I do think my little theory about Juli holds some water... but I feel kinda bad about it now after reading the thing about how she's offended by reviews that get "personal". Really, in order to make these kinds of judgments about her I'd have to know her personally and maybe even be her personal therapist, and I am obviously not in that position.

It's just that she seems so much better at being lost (drama/black comedy) than being in control of her situation (light comedy). And when you pair that pattern with her apparent OCD and control issues (hinted at interviews), it leads one to think that Juli excels at mining her personal psychological issues for artistic gain. And then there's the whole "lost child/bad mother" thing she's been repeating lately. And we all know how much she values her children in real life. I mean, clearly her best work is done when she's working out her personal issues and deepest fears through her roles. Until it just becomes such an obvious and repetitive kind of thing (i.e. "bad mommy") that it gets weird.

But that's all SOOOO judgmental to say.

I as a budding actor know all too well that who you are in real life and what you project on the screen are often two very different things. But I just find the whole Juli's life/Juli's work thing so fascinating.

OK, this is really long and intense. Maybe I should just post it on my own blog.

Anonymous said...

Maggie Gyllenhaal has the quintessential Oscarbait role in Sherrybaby, but she plays it more naturally as well as more idiosyncratically than previouos candidates. It's a foreign approach - like she's more interested in the character than in the Oscar.

Glenn Dunks said...

I had read that Gyllenhaal was too unlikable in Sherrybaby. And not in the good unlikable way. We'll see, I suppose.

I really want to see the other Maggie movie this year The Great New Wonderful or whatever it was called.

(just like on Adam's blog, I am avoiding the subject of Juli and comedy)

Glenn Dunks said...

BTW, why did you see Step Up?


because i am a mad fool

adam k. said...

OMG. So this C+ means that you'd almost recommend seeing Step Up.

And ouch, the D for Trust the Man seems pretty harsh for what I thought was a "C"ish kind of review.

And nice to see you've joined the ranks of people who think Scoop is a B- film. I am with you.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised by your review. I remember hating "The Myth of Fingerprints" years ago (and wanting SO much to like it). I'm thinkin' that Julianne and Bart might want to rethink working together in the future.


i hate grades. i don't know why i do them.

Glenn Dunks said...

"because i am a mad fool"

I think we already knew that, right?

I also didn't expect you to give Trust the Man a D. I figured you didn't like it, but not that much. Oh well, just another film for me to skip. That is the ONLY advantage of not getting movies at the same time as America.

Anonymous said...


adam k. said...

I know how you feel, I hate grades too. Yet I do them anyway. Why?

Derek said...

Maggie is great in Sherrybaby, but the movie is too small and her character too unlikable (and her performance too natural?) for Oscar. It might help her chances for World Trade Center, though.

Anonymous said...

Grades ... yeah, they suck. I fell out of love with grades after I went to college and stopped getting A's. But, I wish we could all agree on a system. Like, I'm doing okay with rating films on netflix with the five-star scale and imdb with the ten-point scale, but I don't know if I have the energy to deal with one more system!

adam k. said...

I don't think in terms of points. And isn't the 4-star system used more than the 5-star system?

Of all grading systems, I prefer the A/B/C/D/F scale. That is how papers are graded in English, after all. Films are kind of similar... I guess.

Glenn Dunks said...

Ugh I don't understand 4 star grading! Not at all. I hate it so much. And it's an American thing too! No Australian critics use 4 stars.


I like letter grades. It gives me more to work with. I like being able to distinguish between good and bad stuff. WTF is 2.5/4?

Anonymous said...

TRUST THE MAN - a wonderful, funny romantic comedy with great actors - David Duvochony, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eva Mendes (sooo sexy!!!), Billy Crudop and last but really not least Julianne Moore - oh my god I actually didn't think Julianne could be that funny (she only really was in cookies fortune, but that was a comedian performance) and warm-hearted and great in a romantic comedy. Come on she is really wonderful in this film, great acting and beautiful looking. And the film is funny, touching and really nice, maybe not one of the best romantic comedies all time but great entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Saw "Trust the Man" and loved the
touch of reality which seemed a relief from all the intense action
films and bad scripts of the summer. It was refreshing to enjoy a date night with my husband and
laugh for a change to "real-life"

For a 60 yr old couple, who sees movies every week; Freundlich's script evolved with sensitive glimses of life, love and adult choices. Similarity to a Sex and the City vibe with stellar acting and quick montages.

This is a film for anyone tired of Apple Pie, Snakes on a Plane mentality. No nudity, graphic sex or fu...language, like most R-rated adult content films.

I couldn't help but think maybe the foursome on film couldn't be much different in real life than the characters they played. Actors looked like they really enjoyed each other.

Unusual gamut of critical reviews from 3 to 1 atars for finding fault with "predictible scripts" which portray somewhat normal people rather than lunatics or super heroes.

P.S.CRITICS - lay off bashing
directors and actors who like you are working hard to entertain and
make a living. Let's stop the sensationalism and write reviews on a fair and level playing ground. TTM reviews are either excellent for sensitivity or take direct hits on Freundlich for being married to a superstar.

Let those who buy tickets decide what they like or don't like without attacking Freundlich's credibility as writer of indie films and the husband that Julieanne Moore trusts.

Watch the HBO SPECIAL and you might begin to trust Freundlich. He seems to be a man who shows sensitivity and doesn't write to win awards but entertain people-who want a slice of real life and
humor for the price of a ticket.


i have no problem with slice of real life films. In fact I enjoy them way more than the general populace. But the movie felt very fake too me.

The finale was a huge nail on the coffin. I haven't seen an ending that false in a good long while. Maybe the last time was White Palace with Susan Sarandon when this gritty movie ended with a sudden happy romantic cheesy noone-behaves-this-way publicy declaration of affection.

and I stand by my general feeling that reviews shouldn't get too personal but they have every right to when the artists in question make such obvious choices to reflect that what you're seeing is personal

(they're even admitting in interviews that the retainer thing is from the Moore/Freundlich bedroom -what? why would they make such a personal movie and then not expect people to talk about their relationship.)

Anonymous said...

Maggie looks gorgeous. Love her hair in that pic!


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