Like any first impression, titles are important. A bad title is like that date who calls 25 minutes after showtime to let you know he’ll be late – two strikes before the night’s even begun.

Jonathan Duggan
“So, do you really think aliens exist?” (Courtesy of Fox Searchlight)

Consider the title of the new romantic dramedy starring Julianne Moore (“Far From Heaven”). “Trust the Man” is so banal, so generic, that it could very well apply to half the films now in theaters. It piques little interest, doesn’t offer any significant insight and – above all – it’s boring.

At least in that sense, the label befits the product. The movie is a hundred minutes of mildly entertaining, well performed and wholly unmoving routine.

That’s not to say the well-rounded cast is at fault for the script’s triviality. Billy Crudup (“Big Fish”) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“World Trade Center”) convincingly join Moore and David Duchovny (TV’s “The X-Files”) to form a pair of mid-life couples with commitment issues. While the latter play a married couple whose physical chemistry is sadly depleting under the pressure of raising two small children, Crudup, as Moore’s brother, takes the phobic route as a quirky, underachieving cynic who refuses to take the plunge and marry his girlfriend of seven years (Gyllenhaal).

After a series of infidelities and some of the most unsuccessful counseling sessions of all time that fail both to resolve the couples’ issues or provide any humor, the relationships fall predictably to pieces.

It’s easy to see where each of the couples go wrong (as well as how they’re going to work out), but harder to pinpoint exactly what makes the film a flop. All four principal actors deliver deliberate, passionate performances, particularly Gyllenhaal, who shines in her role as a perky children’s author. But even Gyllenhaal’s performance can only lend so much depth to the film’s impenetrable blanket of superficiality.

The material itself is dead weight, right there on the awkward cusp between the light humor of romantic comedy and the more serious drama of a relationship study. The film doesn’t commit to either style, and so it wavers between the two, never achieving any decent humor or introspection. It ultimately relies on generic melodrama to achieve its half-baked conclusion.

If “Trust the Man” succeeds at all, it only does so like a half-way decent date – entertaining, occupying and totally unaffecting. It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of the film’s failure, but the effect – or lack thereof – on the viewer is unmistakable.

Trust the Man At the State Theater
Fox Searchlight

Film Review: 1 and a half out of 5 stars.

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