For those who appreciate the Woody Allen view of New York but would prefer fewer neurotics, “Trust the Man” provides a loving take on bourgeois Manhattan contentment that’s usually only found in episodes of “Will & Grace.” Unfortunately in this New York, no crisis is insurmountable, and no upscale downtown restaurant is deprived of product placement. Fox Searchlight will have to put in overtime to counter what will undoubtedly be fatal word of mouth, despite some very decent performances.
With characters who are far more endowed with problems than personality, writer-director Bart Freundlich’s carousel of domestic angst stars his wife, Julianne Moore, as Rebecca, a celebrated film actress who’s taken on a stage play at Lincoln Center. Her husband, Tom (David Duchovny), has assumed, apprehensively, the role of house husband in charge of their two kids.
The obvious dramatic fodder in such a setup is obscured by a Freundlich’s penchant for easy jokes and painfully glib repartee between Rebecca and Tom — and between Rebecca’s brother, Tobey (Billy Crudup), and Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Elaine is a would-be children’s author who wants children, and Tobey’s a lay about who has turned alternate-side-of-the-street parking into a full-time job.
Crudup is the only cast member who really grabs his part — and he also has the best lines. Tobey is happily askew to real life and expresses sincere disbelief that any one should expect anything of him, including Elaine.
Tom, on the other hand, is not unhappy in his fatherly duties, but would like a bit more bedroom attention from Rebecca.
The cinematography by Tim Orr (“George Washington,” “Raising Victor Vargas”) is first rate, as are the costumes by Michael Clancy, but the surfaces are so glossy they counteract the indie flavor that Freundlich (“The Myth of Fingerprints”) is trying so hard to achieve.
While other recent films, notably “Half Nelson,” have used New York with visual originality, “Trust the Man” is the city as envisioned by the same people who came up with “I Love NY.”
The closing scenes of “Trust the Man” are so contrived and madcap, the viewer fully expects someone to start throwing pies. That they don’t is a disappointment, all things considered.