Review: Trust Me
PLOT: A former child-star-turned-agent (Clark Gregg) cant believe his luck when hes approached by a young starlet on the cusp of landing a major franchise role to be her new agent. Soon his dreams of wealth and success are within his reach, but at what cost?
REVIEW: TRUST ME has got to have the most misleading poster of all-time. With an image of a lightly (comically) battered Clark Gregg extending his hand, with a happy billboard and Disney-style font in the background, one would assume this was going to be another LIFE WITH MIKEY. Dont remember that one? Well, it was a Disney-ish comedy about child stars on the cusp of stardom, with Michael J. Fox also coincidently playing an agent/former child star.
Sure enough, the first half hour of TRUST ME followed that formula to a tee, with Gregg (who also wrote and directed) getting lots of mileage out of your typical smart-assed-kids gags, including being flipped-off by his precocious clients and bulldozed by stage-moms, here epitomized by Molly Shannon. Heck, theres even a cute neighbor (Amanda Peet) for Gregg to romance. All sounds pretty typical right? Wrong.
About midway through, Gregg drops a bomb on us, and TRUST ME totally switches gears. It becomes an ultra-dark, knowing look at the sketchier side of Hollywood, where kid actors are often viewed as commodities, exploited in every way by the adults they trust, and discarded as they get older. This is a pattern weve seen played out over-and-over, with most big child stars eventually winding up as victims of the profession. TRUST ME is one of the few films Ive ever seen about Hollywood that actually has the guts to confront the terrible price these kids pay in order to make their parents and agents rich, and how they often find themselves exploited in every way you could imagine even sexually.
This is a seriously ballsy film for Gregg, who seems to have used the clout he acquired as Coulson in THE AVENGERS and now AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D to make a movie about something that matters to him, and its a pretty fascinating little film. Having a huge tonal shift like this could have been disastrous, but Gregg handles it deftly. The only hint we get early on about where things are going is by the ominous opening, which shows a bloody Gregg being comforted by his starlet client played by newcomer Saxxon Sharbino. His agent, while initially coming off as a scheming bottom-feeder, winds up being something of a hero, as the one guy whos not willing to sacrifice someone elses well-being for material wealth. In a way this is almost film nourish, with him descending into a kind of Hollywood purgatory, where predatory execs (typified by a frighteningly cold Felicity Huffman) threaten him with oblivion if he doesnt tow the company line no matter what the cost.
My hats off to Gregg for delivering a pretty gutsy little film, clearly made by someone whos seen enough of the seamier side of the industry to know what hes talking about. Its not a perfect film, with a butterfly metaphor maybe being a touch heavy-handed, but its very good and a big jump over his last film as a director (the Chuck Palahniuk adaptation CHOKE, whose star Sam Rockwell has a supporting role here). Certainly its a must see for anyone who wants a little insight into why former child stars like Lindsay Lohan or Justin Bieber sometimes act the way they do. This is definitely food for thought.