This romantic comedy starring David Duchovny, Julianne Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Billy Crudup has an archness about it that could win over adult audiences for awhile looking for salient insight into modern relationships. But, Trust the Man soon becomes a showcase for problems more than personality that undermines the congenial scruffiness in a flawed, elemental way.
Bart Freundlich, who has directed Crudup and Moore (his off-screen wife) in the unfulfilling, but more coherent World Traveller, has a fine cast and production team behind him. Yet, his direction and plotting is a bit disheveled and uneven. However, at times, the dialogue, especially from Crudup's Tobey, seems inspired for territory traversed by Woody Allen in pictures like Husbands and Wives.
Marriage hasn't been all that great for Rebecca (Moore) and Tom (Duchovny). With two kids, Tom has become the house-husband feeling some apprehension as his spouse film actress is about to appear on the stage at Lincoln Center.
Crudup's undisciplined, man-boy Tobey is unable to commit to longtime girlfriend Elaine (Gyllenhaal of World Trade Center). Elaine is an executive assistant looking to get her children's book published and is eager to be a mother.
Chronicling the downs and ups of these two couples over a period of several months, Trust the Man is tempered by temptation and therapy in a shamelessly promoted Big Apple.
Dagmara Dominczyk appears as a sultry mom for Tom, Eva Mendes (Hitch) is the erstwhile married college student who'll pop into Tobey's layabout situation, and Justin Bartha (Gigli) is a possible intimate co-star for Rebecca struggling to find her identity in early middle age. Bob Balaban (Capote) and Garry Shandling appear as shrinks for the younger and older couples, respectively.
There's a lush clarity in the lensing by Tim Orr that has an outdoorsy "I love NYC" sparkle to it, and the designs and costumes are distinctive and refined. Nevertheless, it's hard to enjoy being in the company of these people who aren't very likeable and are rather strident. Gyllenhaal's fed-up Elaine appears to be the most grounded in reality and it's somewhat hard to believe how both couples were as close as they were in the first place.
Still, there are some pungent exchanges between the self-effacing Crudup and a twitchy Duchovny who seems to have fun being a horny husband, as well as Moore and Gyllenhaal. The goal of relating set pieces in a sexy, wry way with serious undercurrents feels more self-involved as the high quality of the main quartet's lifestyle isn't that recognizable. Just like their relationships.
Freundlich wants us to notice the flaws through the ignoble past, professional strife, and infidelity, among other issues. Beyond the deft visual surface sheen, the pursuit of happiness or reconciliation becomes eventful in an askew, madcap last reel that siphons any remaining charm out of this colorful battle of the sexes. What could have been a bright, sexy independent-minded ensemble piece takes a hit below the belt, just like Tom.