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Dustin Putman

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The Trouble with the Truth  (2012)
3 Stars
Directed by Jim Hemphill.
Cast: John Shea, Lea Thompson, Danielle Harris, Keri Lynn Pratt.
2012 – 96 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for some language including sexual references).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, December 9, 2012.
"The Trouble with the Truth" is effortless in its, well, truth, to the point where it makes a person wonder why so many films about marriage and relationships get it so wrong. Comparisons to 1982's "My Dinner with Andre" are inevitable, the majority of the picture taking place at, first, a bar and then a restaurant as two people reconnect over drinks and dinner. It's talky, sure, but also undeniably bewitching, with writer-director Jim Hemphill and his terrific leads, John Shea and Lea Thompson (2011's "J. Edgar"), taking very few wrong steps as the conversation flows naturally and peppily from one provocative topic to the next, shedding ever more insight into the characters and their lives.

When happily single bachelor Robert (John Shea) learns that 24-year-old daughter Jenny (Danielle Harris) is engaged to be married, it is the catalyst that ruffles up old memories of his former life with ex-wife Emily (Lea Thompson). With Emily coming to L.A. to speak at a writing conference, Robert takes the initiative to invite her out to dinner while she's in town. Emily, who has remarried a man much more financially secure than Robert, accepts, happy to once more see the first man she fell in love with. As the evening presses on and feelings and emotions are aired, it becomes clear that there is still something very much between them. Did they make a mistake breaking up in the first place, or is it simply too late for a second chance?

"The Trouble with the Truth" traverses a bevy of topics, from money to marriage to infidelity to aging to life regrets to "Fast Food Nation," and it never misses a beat. Indeed, the conversation that Robert and Emily share—like their chemistry—feels inherently real, one subject leading to another and then that one leading unexpectedly to something completely different. Along the way, subtle underlying tension begins to bubble over whether or not this divorced pair might act upon feelings that it's not over for them yet. With Robert as unreliable as ever and Emily in a different marriage, it might be sad but true that their chance for happiness together has sailed.

Danielle Harris (2010's "Hatchet II") and Keri Lynn Pratt (2009's "A Single Man") make nice impressions in brief scenes as, respectively, daughter Jenny and cute bartender Heather, but it is John Shea and Lea Thompson who beautifully carry "The Trouble with the Truth" for its duration. Thompson, especially, is almost a revelation; this is her juiciest film role in years, and she brings a warmth, a light, a compassion, a longing, and a sly sense of humor to Emily where a lesser actor might not have been able to give it the same complexity. Logistical missteps in the narrative are sporadic—Robert and Emily talk about being "stuffed" after having exactly two bites apiece of their dinner—but these are minor asides to a mature, finally poignant adult romance about the nature of true love and second chances. Don't let this small but potent little gem pass by.
© 2012 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman