By the time Trust the Man opens this weekend, it will have been nearly a year since it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight. But really, this thing tastes a good decade past its expiration date. It plays like a watered-down TV-pilot version of Woody Allen’s 1992 Husbands and Wives. Bart Freundlich (The Myth of Fingerprints, Catch That Kid) writes with a sitcom ear and directs with a television eye. He doesn’t care where he aims the camera, as long as at least one of his leads is somewhere in the picture.

David Duchovny and Julianne Moore (she’s married to Freundlich, so at least she has an excuse) are Tom and Rebecca, a married couple on the downside of their vows. He’s a former ad man who has switched to being a stay-at-home daddy, a gig he’s not quite as fond of. She’s a movie actress stooping to conquer the Lincoln Center stage, and she’s lost all sexual interest in Tom; she flinches if he so much as touches her. How has it gotten this way? No idea. The filmmaker never goes deeper than a scene with their therapist (Garry Shandling, whose presence will remind some of The Larry Sanders Show episode in which Duchovny hits on Shandling), who advises them to try it “doggy style.”

Precisely why Tom quit to stay home is never addressed. If it was to spend time with the two kids, then why do we rarely see him with the children? If it was because of financial considerations, well, they didn’t exactly ditch the nanny or move out of their Pottery Barn digs. If the filmmaker doesn’t care enough about these people to explain who they are or why they act the way they do, then why should we invest a second’s worth of interest in their petty pursuits? Freundlich makes Tom a stay-at-home dad mostly so the character can stay home and jerk off to Internet porn and, later, bump into the hottest mother in the history of MILFs (Dagmara Dominczyk) and begin the affair that upends his life by teaching him a few guilty lessons about how he can’t live without Rebecca. Blah, blah, blah.

Rebecca and Tom’s problems are mirrored by Rebecca’s brother, Tobey (Billy Crudup), a slacker locked in a go-nowhere relationship with Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an aspiring children’s-book writer. Of course, they have sex issues, too, and can’t stop talking to each other about them — glib, high-speed chitchat about how they want it, need it, can’t get enough, don’t give enough, and on and on. Gyllenhaal is given such a thankless role that she actually looks like a bad actress, which is a rare, embarrassing thing.

Freundlich has nothing to say and nowhere to go with this material, except to the most contrived ending this side of a Will & Grace episode. His characters don’t mean anything because they don’t say anything or do anything that feels rooted in the nitty-gritty of the everyday.

Categories: Movies