Sure, Clark Gregg has been acting since the 1980s, but most of us know him as the popular S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While he might be best known for rubbing elbows with Iron Man and Thor, Gregg is a strong actor with a likable personality who is also a filmmaker. His second film as a writer/director, Trust Me, which is set in the seedy world of Hollywood agents, likely draws from not only his long career as an actor but also his recent blockbuster stardom.
Trust Me opens ominously with Gregg’s character bleeding from a major chest wound on a metal staircase. In the subsequent flashback, Gregg plays Howard, a former child star whose career ended abruptly who is now a talent agent for child actors. He’s a small fish in a big pond and is frequently outmaneuvered by ruthless agents like Aldo (Sam Rockwell), who makes a career out of stealing Harold’s clients after Harold gets them started. Harold has a chance meeting with fourteen year old actress Lydia (Saxon Sharbino) when he accidentally bursts in on her audition concerned about the sounds of her reacting to being abused. Harold’s mistake actually helps Lydia’s chances and soon he is representing her alongside her redneck father, Ray (a dynamite Paul Sparks). This acquisition can make Howard’s career and, in addition, even his sexy neighbor Marcy (Amanda Peet) is finally noticing him after her repeated rejections. However, the film takes a very dark turn an hour into it, just when it seems like Howard’s life couldn’t get any better and ultimately leads to the circumstances sounding those opening scenes.
There are dozens of movies about how agents are the scum of the earth, but Harold is like the Hollywood version of Danny Rose from Woody Allen‘s excellent Broadway Danny Rose. The eternally likable Clark is a perfect fit for the nice guy Harold, which makes sense since Gregg wrote the role himself. He has a knack for writing interesting, comedic characters — which is both the best and worst aspects of this film. It’s the best aspect because I feel like I could watch a television series about the misadventures of Clark Gregg, nice guy child talent agent. It’s the worst aspect because that engaging tone disappears for the last half hour once the film takes a serious turn. I’m not against tonal shifts in films, but there’s immediate trouble when the tone the movie shifts to isn’t as engaging as the tone it began with.
There are a lot of clever things Gregg does with metamorphosis in the film, essentially thematically focusing on how something or someone can be altered from the way it initially appears. This applies to Gregg’s Howard, but he is not the only character who fits this theme — though I won’t name him or her since I don’t intend to ruin the mystery of the last half hour. I could nitpick the logic of the twists and turns in the climax — it seems like one of those plans that could have been accomplished with a heck of a lot less effort — but that’s up to the viewer to decide. Personally I didn’t buy it, which is why I gravitated more toward the earlier, funnier scenes instead of the later dramatic ones.
RATING: Though it starts strong and finishes weak, Trust Me is still worth a look (6.5/10).
Tribeca Film Festival Screening Times
April 24 8:30PM AMC Loews Village 7