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Dangerous but Sincere
June 11, 2009 — 2:59 am

The A.V. Club tackles my favorite movie, Trust, as part of its “New Cult Canon” film review series. Here’s a nice excerpt:

It should be said up front that Trust, aside from any deeper emotional or thematic underpinnings, is flat-out funny much of the time. And it’s often absurd and melancholy simultaneously, like when news of Maria’s situation literally kills her father, or when her hilarious stereotype of a jock boyfriend breaks up with her without pausing in his training regimen. There’s something sad and funny, too, about Maria’s older sister Peg (a young, superb Edie Falco), a hard-living divorcée who also lives at home, and whose mother considers her damaged enough to make a better partner for Matthew than Maria, the less-spoiled daughter. Hartley also has fun noodling with archetypes: One subplot has Maria searching for a businessman who will come off the Long Island commuter train wearing a trenchcoat and smoking a pipe; it turns out that description fits all businessmen.

Though such deadpan absurdities are a longstanding element of Hartley’s work, they’re also the albatross that hangs over his lesser films, because it can be hard to see the sincerity and depth behind them. Yet that’s never the case with Trust, which speaks to Shelly and Donovan’s wonderful chemistry and the touching way Hartley ties their tenuous romance with their desperate need for rehabilitation and change.


Respect + admiration + trust = love. Only Hartley would attempt to devise some sort of metric to quantify a feeling as intangible as love; one critic, I can’t recall who, suggested that Hartley’s scripts were so hermetic and rigidly plotted that it’s as if they were written on graph paper. But while his films definitely give the impression of being fully worked out well before the cameras roll, that doesn’t necessarily condemn the end results to being stale and overly calculated.

Indeed. I’ve heard similar complaints about filmmakers like the Coen Brothers and Stanley Kubrick over the years. I mean, I like the loose improvisational styles of, say, Godard or Altman as much as anybody — but this “cold, calculated” charge has never seemed to me like a drawback for any movie I’ve ever seen.

— Eric D. DixonComments (0)

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Eric D. Dixon

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