I once knew a guy who told me that two of his favorite movie-watching experiences were achieved by going into the video store, renting something with an interesting box, and walking back out.
I forget what the two movies were – or rather, I can’t recall one of them. The one I remember was The Boondock Saints, a movie with a cult so big it’s resulted in a documentary about the director, and a direct-to-video sequel, even thought the flick was a flop at first.
It was also hard to find. When it was first released, it was a Blockbuster exclusive. That was the only place you could rent it.
There’s something a little magical about the movie that’s hard to lay your hands on, but it’s a sword that cuts both ways. If the movie is so-so, your desperate search to find it can turn you against it.
But if the flick is good, you will pretty much oversell it to everyone.
Such is, I fear, the case with Trust, a movie I rank as my number-two favorite.
At this point in my life, I think it’s been more than a decade since I’ve seen it. And my last viewing of the film was so poorly reviewed by the person I shared it with, that to this day I’m a little afraid to go back and watch it again.
The thing of it is, the movie isn’t available in the United States any more. It was released on video, but the music wasn’t cleared for DVD (because, hey, who knew?) and so it hasn’t been released, and probably won’t be.
I only saw it because my local college had a movie channel, which was run by… I dunno. Someone who had a thing for teeny-tiny movies few people had heard of.
I bumped into Trust in the listings on my TV set one night, and I sat around for a few minutes just to see what it was. Action? Drama?
It came on, and I sat there, captivated. I found out when it was playing, and I taped it the next time it showed.
Then I kept on showing it to friends. And they all liked it. Except for that last friend…
What’s the movie about?
Well... A cheerleader gets pregnant, and her boyfriend wants nothing to do with the baby. At the start of the movie, she tells her parents she’s pregnant, her father says some very unkind word, and she slaps him and walks out.
Then he dies of a heart attack.
Then we meet our other protagonist, a slightly older guy, living with his dad. Only his dad is just a mean, mean, mean dude. Which rolls down to the son, who starts the movie by quitting his job and putting his boss’s head in a vice.
Both of them attempt to get away from their situations, and then they run into each other.
What happens next? They kind of, sort of, fall into a relationship. Only he has anger issues and she’s not out of high school, and neither of them even know how to be in a relationship. Or how to hold a job. Or are ready to be responsible adults.
I won’t tell you how it ends, but there’s a grenade involved.
Trying to describe why I love this movie leaves me a little stuck, frankly. Brilliant acting?
Here’s the issue: The movie looks, and looks often, like a stage play. The directing is rarely dynamic. The actors frequently seem to get only one or two takes, and they work so hard to get the words out just right that it feels like ACTING, instead of acting.
And then there are those words. Lovely, some of them, but they feel WRITTEN.
These are not real people talking to real people, which is what you hope for. These are ACTORS on a STAGE delivering LINES.
But some of those lines:
Maria: Can you stop watching TV for a minute?
Matthew: Because. I had a bad day at work. I had to subvert my principles and kow-tow to an idiot. Television makes these daily sacrifices possible. Deadens the inner core of my being.
And from the same scene:
Maria: Your job is making you boring and mean.
Matthew: My job is making me a respectable member of society.
Now, removed from context, I don’t know if those lines feel as beautiful as they are when spoken aloud. At that point, the boy has tried to subvert everything he is to become a husband and father.
You can feel that he just wants a family. A real family, with someone to look after. (Though he doesn’t yet realize he needs someone to watch over him, as well…)
But he can’t do it, and it’s breaking him.
This is our hero.
In the end, I think I took away these lessons from this movie:
YOUR HERO DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A HERO
When most people talk about telling a story, they claim that the “good guy” needs to be just that – a good guy.
But the boy in this story isn’t a good guy. He wants to be, but he puts people’s heads in vices, and carries a grenade around.
And you root for him.
A character doesn’t have to be a good guy for you to want to follow him. He’s just got to be interesting.
YOUR MOVIE DOESN’T NEED EXPLOSIONS TO BE EXPLOSIVE
Again, the main guy? Scary dude. You can’t really be sure what he’s going to do next, and sometimes, that’s pretty worrisome.
I keep talking about the grenade. He carries it around. It’s always in his pocket. And that’s kind of terrifying to think about.
So, only one explosion in the whole movie, but just about every minute has the potential to become an explosion.
YOU DON’T NEED THE BEST WRITING, DIRECTING, OR ACTING – YOU JUST NEED TO CONVEY YOUR STORY
In the end, Trust works, even with all its flaws, because it’s sure, and steady, and fascinating from the first slap to the final ride in the police car.
Which also leads me to this:
A STORY CAN END IN A HAPPY AND SAD WAY AT THE SAME TIME
Trust ends in a Lady or the Tiger-type way. Two people who seem to love each other are being pulled apart, and that might be for the best.
It might not.
As the credits roll, you get to decide. And that’s something more movies should try.