In Trust the Man, Julianne Moore plays a famous actress who lives in Manhattan and is married to a less-successful man. Julianne Moore is a famous actress who lives in Manhattan and is married to a less-successful man-writer-director Bart Freundlich, whom she met while doing his film The Myth of Fingerprints (1997), and for whom she's starred in World Traveler (2001) and now this. The couple in the film has two children, a young boy and a baby girl. Moore and Freundlich have the same. The movie husband's best friend is her brother, a writer. Moore's brother is a writer, Peter Moore Smith, author of the book Raveling-to which Moore has bought the film rights, which Freundlich has tried to develop. If accusations of autobiography fly, Mr. and Mrs. Freundlich have no one to blame but themselves.

A messy romantic comedy of two best-friend couples-star Rebecca (Moore) and househusband Tom (David Duchovny), and her adolescently thirty-something brother Tobey (Billy Crudup) and his long-suffering girlfriend Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal)-this overlong ode to self-centered Manhattanites is neither as biting as "Seinfeld" nor as comical as the movies of Freundlich's milieu-mate Woody Allen-you know, the early, funny ones. That said, there's a dinner scene in the film that's as hilarious as any, and Crudup and Duchovny make a surprisingly terrific pair of screen buddies, with an effortless give-and-take. And Freundlich admirably gives us a working-class picture of Manhattan-forgoing the glamour and the canyons of commerce, and putting onscreen an actual town that people live in. Shooting Lincoln Center tight and at ground level, as Rebecca rushes to work with her brother in tow, Freundlich strips away the postcard view and makes it just the neighborhood workplace as familiar to New York natives as the shoe store and the corner deli.

These virtues make you want to find the film better than it is. The story is diffuse and meandering, with subplots, such as one with Ellen Barkin as a predatory publisher, getting thrown in and then abandoned. The frequent celebrity cameos are distracting: Look, there's Garry Shandling in one scene as a marriage counselor! Hey, is that the comedian Jim Gaffigan in the sex-addict support group? With Bob Balaban, Eva Mendes and James LeGros all in small roles, there's a home-movie feel of someone getting all his friends-or possibly her friends-together to put on a show.

The slight story has Tom feeling neglected by his high-powered spouse, who's very down-to-earth but too busy and tired for sex. Tom's bud Tobey is an underemployed writer for the likes of fishing magazines, and enjoys his slacker quality-time. Elaine has taken a secretarial job while finishing her children's book, but her biological clock is tick-tick-ticking. Tom strays with a single mom he meets at his older child's school, and Elaine kicks the noncommittal Tobey out. Yet as good as the leads are, there's no feeling of weight or consequence in a movie so shapeless it has not one but two musical montage sequences...and a "one month later" card.

Assuming this film is aimed at urbane audiences, I'd be remiss to leave without noting Freundlich's weird obsession with bodily functions and bathroom humor, and a remarkably wide set of variations on the word "ass." None of which do anything to explain the film's opaque title.