Judge Clark Douglas can't wait for the forthcoming sci-fi thriller Alien vs. Internet Predator.
What took her family years to build, a stranger stole in an instant.
Friends star David Schwimmer made his cinematic directorial debut with the forgettable Simon Pegg vehicle Run, Fatboy, Run, and the television material he's directed has been in a similarly comedic vein (including episodes of Friends, Joey, and Little Britain USA). As such, many may be surprised by Schwimmer's decision to tackle the gritty Trust, a grim tale about the dangers of internet predators. However, a quick glance at the actor/director's personal life suggests why he was the man for the job: Schwimmer is the director of the Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, which specializes in aiding victims of child rape and date rape. Undoubtedly drawing on much of his experience in this area, Schwimmer (along with writers Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger) creates a credible, thoughtful portrait of a rape and its countless aftershocks.
Annie (Liana Liberato, Sons of Anarchy) is a relatively normal 14-year-old girl, a kid who dreams of becoming part of the "cool girls" clique and making her high school volleyball team. Recently, she made friends online with an out-of-state teen named Charlie. Annie's never met Charlie in person, but she develops an emotional attachment to him nonetheless. During one of their chat sessions, Charlie makes a confession: he's actually 20 years old. A few days later, he confesses that he's actually 25. Annie is hurt by his lies, but Charlie's assurances and kind words are smooth enough to persuade Annie to maintain the relationship.
Inevitably, Charlie eventually tells Annie that he's going to be in her town for a few days and that he'd love to see her in person. Annie agrees, and quickly discovers that Charlie is actually a man well into his 30s. Even at this point, he continues to find ways to keep the wounded young girl on his side: "I thought you'd be mature enough to understand," he says earnestly.
Schwimmer spends about a half-hour on the events leading up to Annie's rape (he cautiously handles that particular moment in a manner that is tasteful and understated yet which also gives viewers an eerily clear idea of exactly what happened), and many of these scenes are reminiscent of the early moments in David Slade's Hard Candy. However, his primary focus is on the emotional roller coaster Annie and her family ride in the wake of the tragedy. To be sure, the rape itself was a horrible experience, but some of what Annie is forced to endure afterwards may be even worse: the rants of her frustrated father Will (Clive Owen, Closer), the nasty pranks classmates play, the intrusive FBI investigation, the moments in which she's required to attempt to contact Charlie again, the rift that comes between Annie and her best friend, the patronizing manner in which her friends and family treat her…the list goes on.
Trust persuasively presents the idea that rape (particularly for a teenage girl) is not just a self-contained bad experience, but a life-changing moment with long-term effects. That may be an obvious truth, but few films manage to address it with as much nuance and feeling as this one. "I know things aren't ever going to be the same," Annie shouts at her father, "But do you have to keep reminding me of that every single day?"
One of the film's more intriguing notions is to spend as much time with Will as we do with Annie. We see early on that he is a good man and a loving father—perhaps a bit too caught up in work, but generally a good dad. However, after the rape occurs, Will continually trips on his good intentions. He makes almost every conceivable mistake a father could make in such a situation, but Owen sells him as a real human being rather than as a composite of common human errors. His final scene in the film is among his strongest cinematic moments. Catherine Keener also does fine work in the considerably more low-key role of Annie's mother, whose tenderness and quiet support make her a character who slips into the background when contrasted with Will's unchecked fury.
The DVD transfer is sturdy, offering strong detail and some impressive shading during darker scenes. While the film doesn't have many distinguishing visual traits (save for a fairly muted color palette to emphasize the downbeat nature of things), this is a solid standard-def transfer. Audio is similarly low-key, with only a couple of party scenes making much of an impression.
There are moments when Trust has an after school special vibe, but Schwimmer and co. deserve considerable props for addressing this material in a manner that is neither exploitative nor condescending. This is a thoughtful examination of a delicate subject, and is recommended for viewers who can deal with the onslaught of misery the film offers up.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
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