Hal Hartley:"Trust " (1990)

Hal Hartley's second excursion to absurd suburbia, Trust offers audiences the surreal farce and deadpan wit that Hartley made his calling cards. It also offers a surprisingly touching romance, marked by wry irony and universally resonant concerns, centering on trust as a substitute for love. Trust also works as a calm, unforced, deeply precise meditation on identity, and the ways in which it can be built, destroyed, and re-formed into something new and unanticipated. Clad in purple lipstick and a neon mini-skirt at the film's beginning, Maria (Adrienne Shelly) gradually transforms into a serious, intelligent young woman, with glasses and pulled-back hair. It's a believable transformation, thanks to Shelly's remarkable performance; one of the film's truest moments comes when Maria writes in her diary, "I am ashamed. I am ashamed of being young. I am ashamed of being stupid." Fortunately, in Martin Donovan's Matthew, Maria finds someone who understands this. Donovan makes no apologies for his character's difficult personality, making the misanthropic, emotionally stunted repairman's idiosyncrasies raggedly endearing. He and Shelly navigate the flat Formica landscape of Hartley's dialogue with great ease, their blunt, no-frills performances forming the heart of an ornery but immensely satisfying film.


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