Trust Me: Tribeca Review
Tribeca Film Festival, Spotlight
Clark Gregg, Saxon Sharbino, Amanda Peet, Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Allison Janney
Clark Gregg casts himself as an agent coping with the hazards presented by child actors.
NEW YORK — A comeback fairy tale that takes a hard left turn into Noirsville, Clark Gregg's Trust Me finds the writer/director playing a hapless agent for child actors who gets one last shot at signing a star. Hugely entertaining for much of its short running time before a third act that's problematic for various reasons, the film benefits from a top-notch cast and some sharp dialogue but will leave many viewers scratching their heads.
Gregg's Howard Holloway is a failed child actor who grew up and became a floundering child-actor agent. Stud earring in one ear, Bluetooth headset in the other, he's a loser who works out of a garage and doesn't recognize when playing hardball with an agent is going to get him beaned. His rival agent Aldo Shocklee (Sam Rockwell, firmly committed to his thinly-written villainy) poaches any client of Howard's who might take off, sending Howard into desperate tantrums even his pre-teen thespians find immature.
After a particularly bad morning at the casting office, though, Howard gets a break: Not only does the neighbor he pines for (Amanda Peet) agree to go out with him, but he hits it off with a 13 year-old actress, Lydia (Saxon Sharbino), who calls him out of the blue asking for his help inking a three-picture deal starring in a fantasy franchise directed by Ang Lee.
Even if Gregg hadn't started the picture with a flash-forward of his character lying near death in an alleyway, we'd be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Howard is a decent man in his way, but clearly isn't meant for success, and every soft-focus vision he has of his high-powered future is a winking acknowledgement that it isn't meant to be.
But we expect Howard's failure to happen in a certain comedic context. The film's first fast-paced hour, which combines Bowfinger's loving mockery of marginal show business dreamers with the cynical producer-politics of State and Main, is full of laughs and sharply plotted -- particularly strong in scenes pitting Howard against a producer and casting director (Felicity Huffman and Allison Janney) who can hardly stand the thought of giving the guy a break.
The reversals in the third act, though, suffer from hurried storytelling, unconvincing motivations, and shaky shifts in tone. Sharbino, so fine as a preternaturally savvy Oklahoma emigre intent on making it despite being saddled with an alcoholic, hotheaded father (Paul Sparks), is forced to transform her character on a dime, and events take a Shakespearean turn that few in the audience will find credible. The other shoe doesn't drop; it appears out of nowhere and shoves itself up the viewer's nostril. Even a man who probably should have left Tinseltown before his eighteenth birthday deserves better.
Production Company: Unified Pictures, Savage Bunny, Bron Studios
Cast: Clark Gregg, Saxon Sharbino, Amanda Peet, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Felicity Huffman, Paul Sparks, William H. Macy
Director-Screenwriter: Clark Gregg
Producers: Keith Kjarval, Aaron L. Gilbert, Mary Vernieu, Clark Gregg, Raju Hariharan, Akshaii Hariharan, Brad Greiner
Executive producers: Raymond Brothers, Scott Glassgold, Payam Shohadai, John Raymonds, Ronald J. Giacose, Tara Moross, Randy Wayne, Jeff Rice, Sam Rockwell
Director of photography: Terry Stacey
Production designer: Stephen Altman
Music: Mark Kilian
Costume designer: Rebecca Gregg
Editor: Kathryn Himoff
Sales: Rena Ronson, United Talent Agency
No rating, 88 minutes