Trust (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Trust (2011)

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I broke one of the cardinal rules of film criticism before sitting down to sift through my notes on Trust by pulling up Rottentomatoes and taking a look at the blurbs.  One phrase was distressingly common throughout many of the reviews - "after-school special".  Considering that the heart of Trust deals with the way its heroine comes to cope with her own statutory rape, it seemed distressingly clear that too many were willing to reduce the film down to it's barest essentials.

Girl goes on internet and gets raped.  Everyone learns a lesson.  Cue up the credits and hand out hankies to the appropriate parties who are easily affected by after-school specials.

I don't like the implication of simplifying a story like Trust to the level of an after-school special.  It implies that something like rape can be reduced to the act itself and then be resolved by the time the third act clears the screen.  What impresses me most about David Schwimmer's movie is its willingness to look beyond the act itself and consider the aftershocks in its wake.  Not just for Annie (Liana Liberato), but for her mom, dad, and the social worker who has to speak with the three of them in an attempt to return life to some semblance of normal.

Annie is seduced online by Charlie (Chris Offey).  He gathers her trust by pretending to be a fellow High School student, then in subsequent conversations revealing that he's older, until finally meeting and she sees he's a 35-year old man.  They have sex.  It's not forced.  Something that her father Will (Clive Owen) has difficultly understanding whereas her mother Lynn (Catherine Keener) and her social worker Gail (Viola Davis) understand all too well.

Trust shows how love, any love, can be perverted in the presence of a dangerous fantasy.

This is where most of the reviewers must have felt a bit uncomfortable and needed the distance of the PM hours once school has ended.  Annie is still attracted to her attacker after the seduction is complete and the investigation begun.  She doesn't understand why everyone wants to hunt him down so badly.  The only reason that she begins to fully comply with the investigation is out of jealousy more than the facts of the case.  Schwimmer understands Annie's basic drive to feel attractive and wanted, even at the cost of her virginity and innocence.

There are no pat emotional revelations for anyone, especially her father.  As played by Clive Owen, Will becomes a man obsessed with finding her attacker, not really understanding why it is that she is still willing to protect the pederast.  Will becomes as much of a danger to his daughter as he does to Charlie (if he ever finds him).  Trust does not shy away from this danger, presenting a number of fantasy scenarios where Will becomes the violent avenger and is only partially aware of the youth/sex culture he is helping propagate.

Trust is most critical of these scenes involving Will.  He works at an American Apparel-esque company where he pitches advertising campaigns to make these young folks attractive to the wrong kind of people.  It could be seen as a bit of too-neat plotting, but the way it runs along with Will's placement into the revenge-fantasy scenarios is appropriate in showing how dangerous these wish-fulfillment desires really are.  If Will can't make the connection between what he peddles and what happened to his daughter, then years of revenge dramas will certainly show him the way.

Liberato is able to act in scenes alongside Viola Davis.  Unfamiliar with Davis?  She was nominated for an Oscar based on eight minutes of screen-time.  That's how amazing both Davis and Liberato are in this film.

I was uncomfortable watching Trust in part because of the strength it attacked his hypocrisy.  While Lynn is actually there for her daughter, Will is off fulfilling some dream that most fiction has taught people to accept while the victims are left forgotten.  I liked the way that Trust was painfully aware of these roles, in the way that Lynn's eyes began to well up any time she saw that her husband was off as some kind of noble avenger.

Schwimmer pulled stunning performances out of everyone for this movie, but Liberato deserves the lion's share of the credit.  She was only fifteen when the movie was made and does not misstep a single fraction of the film.  Some of my discomfort stemmed from how genuine she made her attraction to Charlie, and the real strength of the movie comes from her gradual realization of how toxic this is and how that knowledge will help her move on in her life.

After-school specials end the moment their credits do.  The final scene of Trust shows two humans that have been completely broken by a tragedy that neither could have anticipated - something that is going to live on with the both of them long after the crew list has stopped.

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Trust (2011)

Directed by David Schwimmer.
Screenplay by  Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger.
Starring Liana Liberato and Clive Owen.

Posted by Andrew

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