Title: The Trouble with the Truth
Director: Jim Hemphill
Starring: John Shea, Lea Thompson, Danielle Harris, Keri Lynn Pratt
A spare but winning romantic drama that taps into the same talky, intellectually stimulating vein as Richard Linklater’s “Sunrise”/”Sunset” collaborations with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, “The Trouble with the Truth” is cinematic catnip for anyone who fancies themselves a student of the human condition. Written and directed by Jim Hemphill, this intimate bauble serves as a great showcase for actors Lea Thompson and John Shea, and a reminder that human desire doesn’t expire at 35 years of age.
On the heels of learning that their 24-year-old daughter Jenny (Danielle Harris) is engaged to be married, middle-aged divorcées Bob (Shea) and Emily (Thompson) get together for a dinner, their first in years. Bob is a Los Angeles-based musician who prides himself on his low economic overhead. Sardonic and fatalistic, he’s been cycling through a string of care-free relationships with younger, less demanding women. Remarried and living on the East Coast, Emily is a successful author who’s worried that she’s becoming “dull by osmosis” via her new husband; she finds herself banking conversation topics like aircraft awaiting take-off, just to have enough to talk with him about. Over dinner, the pair find themselves reminiscing over what went wrong, and what was right. As they slide into an alcohol-enabled haze of nostalgia, and confess the still-existent depths of their feelings even almost 15 years after splitting, the question comes into focus — are they up for a passionate one-night stand, willing to give it another go as a couple, or perhaps even both?
“The Trouble with the Truth” isn’t as stylistically audacious as Hans Canosa’s 2006 drama “Conversations with Other Women,” another playful adult love story, starring Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter, that was shot in a “dual-frame” style which kept both leads on the screen for the entirety of its 84-minute running time. Shot on Canon DSLRs, its austerity sometimes gets the best of it. And the breakneck pacing of some of Hemphill’s dialogue (particularly for Shea) could be counterbalanced by a bit more fluidity, and different composition.
Still, this movie is an actors’ piece, and in this regard it succeeds mightily. Bob is a bit piggish (“I love everything about women, including wanting to have sex with as many of them as possible,” he says), but his bravado and patter of justification is also a bit of an act — something Emily knows when she calls Bob out on what she deems his unique combination of narcissism and self-loathing. Years removed from any nastiness, Bob and Emily are at a place where they can let down their respective guards and simply let fly with their true feelings, with no worries of how inartfully phrased they may be. They “get” each other — deeply and realistically, in the ways that a couple with a turbulent shared history that spans late twenty- and thirtysomething life often do.
In spirit, Hemphill’s movie certainly owes a debt to Linklater’s previously mentioned films, along with “My Dinner with Andre” and other similar chatty, philosophically-minded flicks; “The Trouble with the Truth” is a bit like a re-stitched backward-glance “He Said, She Said,” in which both perspectives of a relationship are laid up against one another, conversationally. The deeper in a viewer gets, the more it matters to them. It’s more verbose and ambiguous than this fall’s “Hope Springs,” but Hemphill’s film trades in similar truths, capturing the revelations — wondrous and sticky all at once — that can occur when old couples cease with any play-acted niceties and actually start speaking with candor about swallowed feelings.
NOTE: “The Trouble with the Truth” opens in Los Angeles at the Egyptian and Aero Theatres, where Lea Thompson and others will appear in person at select screenings. For more information, visit www.TroubleWithTheTruth.com, or www.Facebook.com/TroubleWithTheTruth.
Written by: Brent Simon