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Savant Blu-ray Review

Millennium Entertainment
2010 / Color / 2:35 widescreen / 106 min. / Street Date July 26, 2011 / 29.99
Starring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato, Jason Clarke, Viola Davis, Chris Henry Coffey, Spencer Curnutt, Aislinn DeButch, Noah Emmerich, Olivia Wickline, Zoe Levin.
Andrzej Sekula
Film Editor Douglas Crise
Original Music Nathan Larson
Written by Andy Bellin, Robert Festinger
Produced by Ed Cathell III, Dana Golomb, Robert Greenhut, Tom Hodges, Avi Lerner, Heidi Jo Markel, David Schwimmer
Directed by David Schwimmer

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

One positive thing to be said about the movie industry is that pictures like Trust keep getting made, even though their chances for commercial success are slimmer than ever. Trust is so engaging in its approach to a difficult subject that I found myself talking to the screen as it played, "No ... don't do that ... wake up ... think!" A brutally honest show about the problems in modern techno-connected families, with an almost painfully accurate picture of the delicate psychological balance in a stable family before the problems start, Trust confronts the viewer with the reality of online predators, point blank. Every parent's innards will twist into a knot sometime during the movie, depending on which events are closest to their personal experience. The picture is direct and frank about its subject, that makes it essential showing for every child reaching out into the world with that liberating new miracle, the Internet. Even in today's sexualized culture, innocence still exists, and the Internet brings certain pitfalls closer to our most vulnerable loved ones. The father carefully sets the alarm system in his house but anyone with his daughter's web address can "walk right in".

The difference between a cheesy TV movie and a powerful film statement is an insightful script and performances that convince us that we're seeing people like those we know and care about. The family of Trust is doing well economically and has no drastic problems. The 40ish Will (Clive Owen) is a partner in a successful ad agency, which ironically (but not too ironically) works in a fashion industry dominated by images of sexualized teens, and "tweens". Mother Lynn (Catherine Keener) keeps a good house. She's sending her oldest son Peter (Spencer Curnutt) off to college and has two daughters behind him, young Katie (Aislinn DeButch) and 14 year-old Annie (Liana Liberato). Through chat rooms, the spirited and self-confident Annie contacts a 16 year-old boy from California, Charlie. Their email friendship turns into a more intimate chat-sex relationship. Charlie's computer camera doesn't seem to be working. When Annie is taken in by his interest and flattery, he admits that he's really 20, and then that he's older. Convinced that she's met the love of her life, Annie meets Charlie in a mall -- he's flown to Chicago just to see her. But he's even older, perhaps 35. Like a deer in the headlights, the confused girl gets in Charlie's car and allows herself to be taken to a hotel room.

Watching all this happen to Annie is like feeling one's blood curdle in one's veins. We know exactly what's going on, and understand why a smart and self-possessed girl like Annie allows herself to be drawn into the trap. But it's still like watching one of those fuzzy security cameras that show a little kid being led away from his parents, knowing all along that he's going to be strangled. Wisely, Trust isn't just about this sense of helplessness and outrage. It goes several steps further, with a frustrating FBI investigation and the awful gauntlet of rage and shame and social estrangement experienced by Annie, Will and Lynn.

The most disturbing thing in the movie, for parents at least, is Annie's reaction when her parents and the authorities announce their intention to find and trap the predator-rapist. Annie doesn't make the right connections. As far as she's concerned, "Charlie" loves her. They are misunderstood and persecuted lovers. She's tortured when Charlie doesn't call her, and goes ballistic when he discovers that she's inadvertently cooperated in laying a trap for him. The formerly rock-solid Will crumbles emotionally at his daughter's rejection and is consumed by violent thoughts. Annie denies her former friends as traitors and stonewalls the caring counselor (Viola Davis) who tries to get her to see the truth. She clings to her illusions, only to find that she's become a celebrity freak at her school. When a vulnerable person, child or adult, can see no alternative to unending personal pain, terrible things can happen.

That Trust keeps all this under control is a commendable achievement. Actor-director David Schwimmer handles every scene remarkably well. Although Clive Owen has the strongest acting moments and Catherine Keener convinces us in every scene, young Liana Lieberato's performance is the heartbreaker. Seeing the happy, lively kid close herself off like a besieged loser in a film noir is a sobering experience. Any parent will understand the helplessness of the situation, the feeling that one is being cast as the enemy, with one's intentions totally misunderstood. Will finds little understanding at work, where his boss fantasizes about having sex with teenaged girls; not even Lynn can penetrate Will's need to do something, to take action.

Andy Bellin and Robert Festinger's screenplay accurately captures the tone of online messaging, a netherworld in which a teenager can be fooled into a false sense of acceptance and belonging. The script also connects Annie's situation to our oversexed consumer culture that encourages the young to engage in sexualized activity. The intelligent Annie desires very much to be accepted by her peers, and to make an emotional connection with somebody on her own. She doesn't "do the right thing" and leave a wild party given by some faster girls; sleeping around in school is the norm. Even more frightening is the film's portrait of experienced sexual predators, who find their victims while using untraceable email addresses, and take great pains to insure their anonymity.

Although the movie doesn't come out and say it, it does have an underlying message: parents that would never allow their underage children to cruise dark alleys at night let them roam on the Internet, where they can become bait for all kinds of scams, mischief, and worse. Prematurely sexualized by the consumer culture, sensitive kids have all the wrong expectations and are unprepared for what awaits them.

Trust moves to a very strong emotional payoff. We read actress Liberato's face like a map, as she finally sees the light and recognizes Charlie for the betrayer he is. Annie's revelation is a bit too similar to a scene in Robert Redford's Ordinary People -- she rushes across town to a late night meeting with her counselor -- but the emotional release is much more satisfying. The truth is painful, but so much more preferable to her dangerous illusions.

We're so lacking for emotional characterizations in movies nowadays that we'll grasp at straws. Juno from two years ago played much of its clumsy teenage pregnancy story in smart-mouthed faux-cynical mode, yet redeemed itself with a two-minute scene in a moving vehicle, where the young girl's pain and emotions suddenly burst forth. Trust isn't a nervous comedy, and its scenes of reconciliation are genuinely affecting. I can also see young viewers identifying strongly with Annie, and being moved by her experience.

Millennium Entertainment's Blu-ray of Trust is the expected perfect transfer of this handsomely shot feature. Sound and picture are flawless and Millennium's simple menu gets one right to the show, after skipping over a few trailers. An EPK-like featurette from the set shows the actors expressing their interest in the film's theme. A series of deleted scenes are mostly redundant, with the exception of several Catherine Keener moments that might have been retained -- her character gets pushed aside in the show's latter chapters.

Trust is yet another superior drama denied a theatrical life in today's train-wreck movie industry. I don't think that a better choice of title would have helped. The biggest name in the show is Clive Owen, a fine talent who unfortunately peaked with a series of good but unheralded movies a couple of seasons back. If a movie doesn't have a sensational hook for Entertainment Tonight or isn't a monster promotion item, its chances are far too limited -- even Juno was something of a fluke. Let's hope Trust finds a much bigger audience on DVD and Blu-ray.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Trust Blu-ray rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Subtitles: English
Supplements: making of featurette, deleted scenes
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 28, 2011

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2011 Glenn Erickson

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