Hollywood Square: Trust Me

06/04/2014 4:00 AM |

Trust Me
Directed by Clark Gregg

Hearing that an actor has turned director should raise any sophisticated cinephile’s red flags. Just as the skills that make a good reporter rarely make a good editor, or the talents of a line cook don’t necessarily translate into those of a head chef, neither does the great actor’s craft align with the great filmmaker’s. You can’t fault performers for wanting to try: they work watching others exert creative control, and who doesn’t want to be the boss? You just wish producers would be more discerning about whom they hand out money to.

Clark Gregg, though, is different. He’s reached new levels of visibility thanks to the Avengers franchise—from the first Iron Man to the starring role on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD series, not to mention a featured part in Joss Whedon’s inbetweener, Much Ado About Nothing—but Trust Me isn’t his first time behind either the typewriter or the camera: he wrote the screenplay for Robert Zemeckis’s Harrison Ford thriller What Lies Beneath, and he wrote and directed 2008’s Chuck Palahniuk adaptation Choke. (He was also one of the students who with David Mamet and William H. Macy founded the Atlantic Theater, for which he’s directed several plays.) Both movies have rotten ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, but his latest ought to break that streak: it’s as wry, witty, and lovable as its writer-director-star.

Gregg plays a former child star turned agent to actors too young to vote; he knows not just the industry but also the personal toll it takes, making him uniquely adept at the requisite ego management. His Hollywood is a town of the powerful and desperate, everyone mugging with a confidence that can vanish at the nod of an executive’s head, and his is a self-deprecating performance, unafraid of spotlighting the pathetic and undignified demands of show business: the begging, the genuflection, the wretchedness.

Tinseltown emerges as an embodiment of pure capitalism, wherein money and business always trump human relationships—it’s a racket governed by profits over people. Gregg and Saxon Sharbino, playing a promising actress who sticks with him as her agent after they meet randomly at an audition, become the only two people trying to defy that ethos, to do right by each other without getting lost in the cynicism. Before its surprise twist into unhinged melodrama, its third act takes a turn into family drama, the focus on contracts and negotiations fading into background. That’s because, though Trust Me is a sly, subtle and smart Hollywood satire, at root it’s not about business—it works so well because it’s about recognizable, sympathetic people.

Opens June 6