MOVIE REVIEW- It's tempting, but... In men we don't trust

You won't go broke betting a movie called Trust the Man is going to involve at least one untrustworthy man. In other words, it's a chick flick– a chick flick written and directed by a man (Bart Freundlich) as a vehicle for his woman (Julianne Moore), but still a chick flick.

Trust the Man is a "relationship comedy" that, like relationships, is full of compromise. For a time it seems hip and modern, but it's building toward an old-fashioned, pro-family resolution. It says a man must submit to marriage– a woman's ultimate goal– in exchange for free sex once a week, and that in return a woman should forgive a man straying occasionally if he makes a grand enough gesture of public self-humiliation to win absolution.

Okay, maybe a woman will read it differently.

Tom (David Duchovny) and Rebecca (Moore) are an old married couple with two young children. She's a well known film actress who's preparing to make a rare stage appearance at Lincoln Center. He left his advertising career to be a house husband. Once a year they see a therapist (an excuse for a Garry Shandling cameo), where Rebecca complains that Tom wants to have sex "twice a day...always from behind." She doesn't, but at least she gives him plenty of love and affection and he has porno to occupy his...mind.

Rebecca's brother Tobey (Billy Crudup), whom she describes as "like a teenager with a checking account," has been living with Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal) for seven years. He's obsessed with death, his car and his therapist (Bob Balaban) (hey, it's New York– everyone's assigned a therapist at birth) and tunes out her frequent hints about being ready to start a family.

Everyone faces temptation, but not everyone yields. A young actor (Justin Bartha) makes a play for Rebecca. A divorced mother (Dagmara Dominczyk) at their son's school zeroes in on Tom. Elaine throws Tobey out, so he's technically available. The hot woman (Eva Mendes) he knew in college is married but wants him anyway.

Elaine has the widest variety to choose from. A predatory publisher (Ellen Barkin) wants to hold intimate "discussions" about publishing her children's book. Rebecca hooks her up with a pretentious singer-songwriter (James LeGros), but Elaine finds Eurotrash Gorin (Glenn Fitzgerald) on her own.

The four stars are likable and somewhat believable.

Trust the Man is good as long as it focuses on them, individually or in any combination; but it goes downhill fast as their universe is diluted by outsiders, reaching its nadir when Tom joins a sex addicts support group.

When the men try to top Romancing the Stone to win the women back, it's not only silly, it's rude. No one steals a diva's thunder on opening night, and they certainly shouldn't be rewarded for doing it. How could Freundlich, married to an actress, not know this?

If you'll settle for two-thirds of a good romantic comedy, trust Trust the Man to provide it.

#