This Trust review contains spoilers.
Trust Episode 3
I miss Brendan Fraser. Episode three of Trust, “La Dolce Vita,” has the unfair disadvantage of directly following “Lone Star,” the standout, charming oddball installment of the three episodes that were pre-screened for critics. Without a fourth-wall breaking Fraser, “La Dolce Vita” inevitably feels like a bit of a letdown, but its problems run deeper than just a lack of star power in this uneven hour of television.
The main issue with “La Dolce Vita” is that its treading well-worn ground, in more than one way. With the point of view finally shifting to John Paul Getty III, the audience is able to see just how the kidnapping takes place, but many of the larger details have either been already previously presented in the premiere or assumed. What’s worse is that the new material revealed, out of order in an effort to inject some style, feel like warmed over recreations of better true crime movies. So many of the beats feel too familiar to make an impact, and try as he might, Danny Boyle can’t elevate the stodgy writing.
The episode begins by showing us the Golden Hippy in his element. Surrounded by drugs, sex, and revolution, John is lapping up the last drops of swinging ‘60s pastiche. With the requisite soundtrack, hedonistic montages are Boyle’s bread and butter, but we’ve seen them better and more frenetic elsewhere. Here they just seem like someone else doing a pale imitation. John, his girlfriend, her sister, and his frenemy are living it up but racking up quite the bill. Like every idealist trust fund kid, John has vowed to pay his own way in life, but no one told his friends; they’re charging everything to the Getty name every chance that they get.
When endearing paintings fail to satiate mob-connected restaurant owner Berto any longer, John’s forced to swallow his pride and go crawling back to his family for $6,000. First, he goes to his mother. Hilary Swank, still in dotting mother mode, feels like she’s doing a caricature of an oblivious mom and her, “I miss you Paulie” brief moments onscreen are the nadir of the script. John gets enough cash from Mom to book a ticket back to London, and the memory of the superior pilot is left to tell the story from there. When Paul gets back, we watch him hatch his fake kidnapping scheme with the twins and then Berto.
Berto is actually one of my favorite components of the episode. With his cute dog and his faux-toughness that’s easily pushed aside, Berto gets the best character moments. Take for instance when he believes he’s going to a party at Roman Polanski’s and practices his introduction in the mirror, only to be embarrassed and dodged completely by the twins. It provides a sad, but credible neckbeard layer of motivation for the eventual double cross of Paul.
The chief motivation is Paul’s own stupidity and weakness. Holed up in a safe house waiting out the payment of his ransom, Paul can’t stave off his own boredom, and then his withdraw. Arrogant and demanding in such a precarious situation, Paul whines, pouts, and begs for more cocaine before escaping the confines of the safe house. Once escaped, the last ten minutes of the pilot previously established what Paul decided to do with his brief freedom.
Fed up and needing the money, Berto decides to exchange Paul for money with the dangerous criminal Primo, and it’s here that Boyle kicks things into high gear. Eerily quiet, not so-subtly set in a field of dying sunflowers, Boyle channels the Coen Brothers as Primo decides to take the exchange off book. Primo efficiently, brutally murders Berto and his help without breaking a sweat or losing his menacing swagger and Boyle keeps the tension tight with lots of overhead and longshots. When things are said and done, Paul’s in much more danger than he bargained for and is now quite solitary without a solitary cent.
It’s not so much that “La Dolce Vita” is bad, it just feels so inessential. It’s even more frustrating after last week’s knockout episode that suggested that Trust was willing to be ambitious and weird. I’m worried that next week, without Danny Boyle in the director’s chair for the first time this season, that Trust will continue to recede into being a predictable, derivative crime caper. With so much television competing for the collective consciousness, we need less of that and more strange cowboys that talk directly to the camera.