Trust

19 Jan

Title: Trust
Year: 2011
Director: David Schwimmer
Writers: Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger
Starring: Liana Liberato, Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Jason Clarke, Noah Emmerich, Chris Henry Coffey
MPAA Rating: R, disturbing material involving the rape of a teen, language, sexual content and some violence
Runtime: 106 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 77%
Metacritic: 60

 

David Schwimmer is mostly thought of as the guy with the least successful post-Friends career out of the 6 people who were legitimate American sweethearts from 1994 to 2004. Jennifer Aniston has obviously been in a lot of movies, most recently the hilarious Horrible Bosses (which I gave a B+ to) which saw her in a different light than what we’re used to. Lisa Kudrow had HBO’s The Comeback which was hilarious but unfortunately got cancelled after thirteen episodes, but now has found new success with Web Therapy. Courtney Cox had FX’s Dirt which ran for a couple of seasons and is now starring in ABC’s Cougar Town which has a pretty passionate following. As for the guys, Matthew Perry had Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and the more recent Mr. Sunshine, both of which failed, but still, he’s been out there. Matt LeBlanc had the disappointing two seasons of the spin-off Joey but has now found new life thanks to Episodes, the Showtime series that sees a fictionalized version of himself and for which he just won a Golden Globe last Sunday.

David Schwimmer, on the other hand, well, he’s been nowhere to be seen, really. He’s been heard as the voice of Melman the giraffe on the Madagascar films, and he directed the Simon Pegg film Run, Fatboy, Run which I thought was funny enough but nothing special. Well, now he’s back again, though still behind the camera and not in front, but Trust is actually something special, it’s a film that shows he’s sort of realizing his full potential. I really, really liked this film a whole lot, and while there’s still a sense that Mr. Schwimmer has a ways to go to know to really craft a fully cohesive story and learn how to create some tension, his skills as far as directing his actors are undeniable, the performances he gets from his entire cast here, which obviously include some truly talented folks, are just tremendous.

I was seriously surprised with this film. I remember watching the trailer and seeing the names that were attached (Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis) and I was sold. But something about it being “a David Schwimmer film” had me feeling a bit cautious. And yet we got a director who took a hard job and who nailed it really, because the traumatic situations and the family situations and the whole psychological aspect of Trust are tough to handle by themselves, let alone tackle them all together head-on, and yet Mr. Schwimmer succeeds at that job incredibly well. And like I said, the performances he gets from his actors are so intense and gut-wrenching it’s impossible not to admire this film, the veteran actors are obviously all very good on their own, but Mr. Schwimmer’s skills are really evident when you watch the performance of the young Liana Liberato.

Ms. Liberato is the girl in charge of playing Annie, the fourteen-year-old who lives in a Chicago suburb with her parents, Will and Lynn (the characters of Mr. Owen and Ms. Keener), who are really loving parents but ones that have slightly neglected Annie, paying a bit more attention to her older brother, Peter, since he’s about to head off to college and they’re helping him with the arrangements and such. As a result, Annie’s spending quite a lot of time online, chatting to Charlie, a boy she met online. So, yes, Trust is a story about an internet pedophile predator and his naïve and vulnerable young victim, and Mr. Schwimmer is so good in that he never once dumbs down the action for us, he’s super smart in his incisive look at the repercussions, looking at everything that happens to Annie and her family with sympathy, for sure, but not one that will ever shy away from the harsh realities of the situation, never once getting preachy and never once going overboard with the material.

As Annie starts falling for Charlie, he asks her to finally meet in person, face to face, and of course she eagerly agrees. And that’s when we realize Charlie is not sixteen, but in his mid-thirties, and yet he’s a comforting figure, he makes her feel like he understands her, and once he persuades her into going by his hotel room, he rapes her. And I cannot overstate how incredible the performance by Ms. Liberato is, the way she plays Annie’s innocence, her young idealism, her readiness to trust and her capacity to be hugely hurt; as great as the rest of the actors in this film are, it’s she that had to carry the film, and she really does. Mr. Schwimmer shows an awareness about today’s society, a culture that sexualizes young girls, perfectly shown in Will’s work as an advertising exec in which young girls are used on billboards to sell a brand; and yet we have Annie who’s not a character from Thirteen, she’s a nice girl, not sexually advanced at all, and yet this is what falls on her.

Annie confides to a friend about what happened with Charlie, and eventually the police are notified and we get to know that the guy is actually a sex offender who they’ve been after for quite some time. Mr. Schwimmer strays away from delving too deeply into the causes of the crime itself, and instead focuses a lot on the consequences, the emotional results of such a horrible crime; Will, especially, is hugely devastated by what happened, becoming obsessed with finding the man that raped his young daughter. What I loved the most is how respectful Mr. Schwimmer is of Annie’s feelings, how he represents her vulnerability, how he understands that other than the physical rape, the loss of her virginity, what weighs probably more on Annie is the psychological rape, the gossip about her at school, the destruction of the ideals she had about falling in love, the loss of her space and privacy by the FBI investigation surrounding her.

Trust is a truly powerful film, as Annie starts confiding in her therapist, played as well as always by the great Viola Davis, we start seeing the huge appeal a pedophile can provide to a young, vulnerable girl. And in the impact it all has on her parents we see some really tough scenes in which Will’s anguish is overpowering, as he becomes more interested in vengeance than in getting over it; the scenes between Mr. Owen and Ms. Keener being some of best parts of the film. This is an incredibly perceptive piece of filmmaking by a director I didn’t quite realize was ready to provide something like this quite yet, one that shows expected forms of evil in Charlie and more unexpected ones in the society it presents, one that has in Liana Liberato a tremendously gifted young actress, capable of shining a light on a reality that exists more and more in today’s world in which digital connections are more easily defined.

Grade: A-


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