In Trust, Annie gets a laptop computer for her 14th birthday and soon meets “Charlie” online. He’s a middle-aged man posing as a teenager in an Internet chatroom, and it’s not long before she agrees to meet him in person. The film is gripping to say the least, excruciatingly uncomfortable at times and an excellent drama about how the Internet can make a teenage girl easy prey in her own home. The New Orleans Film Society and Chalmette Movies present two screenings (7:30 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, July 18-19).
Director David Schwimmer (of Friends fame) keeps the story simple and straightforward, offering no distractions or cartoonish exaggerations. Charlie (Chris Henry Coffey) is a calculating and shrewd predator, but not a drooling monster. Annie (Liana Liberato) is naive about love, but not oblivious about life, and the film delves into what makes her respond to Charlie, even after she realizes he’s not her age.
She’s not a loner, but her father (Clive Owen) misses a moment when she desperately wants his attention, and he unfortunately suggests his career is more important. She’s maturing and beginning to discover her sexuality and fusses when her mother (Catherine Keener) refuses to let her buy a lacey, frilly bra. Their family life is not perfect, but it’s also not dysfunctional, and in between these moments of mundane conflict, Charlie becomes a remote but reassuring source of support, praise and what comes to seem to Annie like love. That’s enough to make her defend the relationship, all the more so after the encounter goes horribly wrong.
Schwimmer brilliantly balances the candor he needs to fully address the subject of sexual predators and the restraint he needs to keep it from getting horrifically graphic or sensational. The police are called, but it never becomes a crime movie. The only heavy handed element is Annie’s father’s job in advertising: he handles an account for a company called American Academy, which uses advertisements with scantily clad young models, an obvious reference to American Apparel.
Liberato does an excellent job portraying the awkwardness of straddling the tween and adult worlds. She strikes repeated awkward smiles and poses while trying to take a mature-looking self-portrait she can send to Charlie, and it’s dreadfully clear that her failure would only please him more. And at times, she negotiates the aftermath better than her father, whose obsession with catching Charlie leaves him ignoring her feelings yet again.