Howard (Clark Gregg) is a Hollywood agent handling child talent, but his efforts to find new clients are constantly undermined by his nemesis, the smoother and flashier Aldo (Sam Rockwell). Once a childhood actor himself, Howard believes he has something different to offer these vulnerable kids. He’s been where they are and feels he’s that much closer to them on a personal level.
When Howard meets the self-admitted “precocious” young actress, Lydia (Saxon Sharbino), he knows she’s destined to be a hot commodity. She’s soon pursued for a role in a big YA adaptation — think Twilight, Divergent, Mortal Instruments — and at least for the moment it looks like Howard’s luck is on the upswing. Lydia has talent and actually seems to care about Howard enough not to quickly replace him with a better agent, but her father Ray (Paul Sparks) has other ideas.
A lengthy list of supporting actors in roles big and small round out the cast, with Felicity Huffman and Allison Janney as cutthroat Hollywood execs and Molly Shannon and William H. Macy in minor but memorable roles. Amanda Peet also stars as Marcy, the unbelievably beautiful neighbor, who seemingly exists to fill a more expositional role beyond the typical love interest. Scenes between her and Howard aren’t frequent enough either, meaning when we do get them together the time is spent more on furthering the plot than on anything resembling a relationship.
The film’s strength is in characters who are diverse, well-rounded and allowed to deliver solid dialogue. Howard is instantly likable, almost to the point that his lack of success begins to seem a bit far-fetched, but it’s difficult to tell if that’s the character’s doing or Gregg’s. Marvel’s well-known straight man plays a pretty charming leading man, in an albeit clumsy way, and I’d love to see him lead more films (or TV shows) outside of the Marvel Universe. Lydia and her father initially seem a bit one-note, but their details are revealed slowly and assuredly.
Less successful is the world the characters inhabit — mostly because it’s two worlds that don’t fully mesh. There’s an awkward shift roughly two thirds in where it goes from a lighthearted comedy about a scrappy, down-on-his-luck Hollywood guy to a pretty serious drama about child abuse and the realities of young Hollywood. Both portions of the film are individually fine, but they tonally don’t match up.
As much as I’d love to see more films about burnt-out Hollywood starlets I was really enjoying the movie’s first half. Gregg’s Howard is so likable – or maybe it’s just Gregg himself – that I’m happy to watch him play an underdog agent battling against a smarmy Sam Rockwell. Howard befriends a strong-willed, spirited teen, who might help turn his career around? Adorable! When the film switches to something more sinister and, plot-wise, more complicated, it loses half the fun instantly, slowly winding down to an awkward ending that, in fairness, is hinted at in the film’s opening scene.
Trust Me is a fun comedy while it’s still trying to be a fun comedy, and it’s an okay drama when it awkwardly switches over to one. It’s the disappointment of the switch that ultimately kills the mood and results in a far less satisfying film.
The Upside: Clark Gregg is an adorable leading man; most of the movie is pretty fun to watch
The Downside: Third act is a downer; bizarre ending doesn’t fully work
On the Side: Seriously – did anyone else know that Clark Gregg wrote the screenplay for What Lies Beneath?
Trust Me opens in limited theatrical release this June and premieres on iTunes and VOD May 6th.