Trust the Man

Opens at Metro and others, Fri., Sept. 1. Rated R. 103 minutes.

No, trust the critic: This movie should be avoided in every possible way. Not only should you not see it, you should avoid walking by the theater. Don't eat dinner in the same neighborhood. Do not be fooled by the presence of four talented, likable performers—Billy Crudup, David Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Julianne Moore—who might mislead you into buying a ticket. These four live in a blissful Manhattan bubble where nice apartments and prime restaurant tables are a given. The other boroughs are as distant as Kansas, and the only concession to reality is Crudup wrestling with alternate side of the street parking rules—so he sits in his car writing on his laptop and making waffles. Wacky! His character and Gyllenhaal's are at that seven-years-and-still-not-married stage of their relationship. His older sister (Moore) and her husband (Duchovny) are at that stage of wedded bliss and poopy diapers where she avows, "We're married, and it's overrated." Which, then, the movie sets out to disprove in the dullest possible fashion: The men stray, the women fret, therapists weigh in, there's even a cape-wearing French intellectual to kick around, and everyone gathers constantly in trendy bistros to discuss the state of their relationship—like this is their job or something and they're paid by the kvetch. ("I feel lost." "I don't even know who you are anymore." Please.)

Rather than jolt this quartet out of its comfort zone, or do anything interesting with his failed first attempt at comedy, writer-director Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints, World Traveler) simply embraces everything that's great about the West Village, everything that's wonderful about marriage, kids, and family. (Of course, he's married to Julianne Moore, so it's hard to argue with him there.) His intent, rather too obviously, is to make like Woody Allen in the '70s, but what he's created is a movie populated by the extras in a film by Woody Allen in the '70s—the right look, the right locations, only the wrong characters are doing the talking. They simply have nothing funny to say. Even Ed Burns can make a better faux-Woody picture by now. Anyone who's studied that vintage template can produce a movie about people making a mess of a relationship. The problem is that Freundlich can't even make an original mess. BRIAN MILLER

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