Review: ‘Trust’ Is Flashy but Ephemeral

In “Trust,” where he’s working, if very loosely, from real life and needs to stretch the narrative out to 10 hours, the results are less compelling. The quest to paint a broad portrait of an era comes at the cost of individual emotion and psychological depth.


Harris Dickinson as John Paul Getty III in “Trust.”

Oliver Upton/FX

The surface gloss is definitely there, though. Perhaps as a strategy to deal with the expanded length of the TV series — and to keep himself interested — Mr. Boyle, who directed the first three episodes, adopts a different style in each one.

The opener, in which we’re introduced to the extended Getty family and to life at Sutton Place, J. Paul Getty’s English country home, is British crazy-aristocracy comedy. A foursome of jealous, bored girlfriends serves as a chorus commenting on events as Getty frets about who will succeed him in the family oil business, humiliates various offspring and plays the aging satyr, receiving an injection for erectile dysfunction while complaining about his son’s and grandson’s drug use.

The second week, in which the investigation begins of the kidnapping of the grandson, known as Paul (Harris Dickinson), switches to a style reminiscent of a late ’60s-early ’70s caper film. The colors brighten with the move to Rome, the screen frequently splits into three or more sections (shades of “The Thomas Crown Affair”) and the focus shifts to a private investigator played by Brendan Fraser, a big-talking Texan in a 10-gallon white hat.

You know things have morphed right away when Mr. Fraser opens the episode by narrating straight into the camera. And Week 3? It’s titled “La Dolce Vita,” and sure enough there’s some Fellini-style light surrealism and some vivid Bertolucci-style youthful abandon.

If anything ties together the experience of watching “Trust,” it’s this expectation of visual and stylistic novelty from Mr. Boyle. You can track how the soundtrack shifts along with the narrative — the Rolling Stones and David Bowie for British debauchery, spaghetti-western instrumentals for Italian cool. Allusions to English literature — “Lear,” “Tom Jones” — give way to a shot of the mouse puppet Topo Gigio on Italian TV. The tone and substance toggle abruptly among satire, melodrama and morality play.

How this fragmented approach will play out over the full season — and beyond that, across three seasons of what’s planned as an anthology series about the Getty family — is anyone’s guess. It might be worth hanging around to see whether Mr. Sutherland, Mr. Fraser and Hilary Swank, as Paul’s mother, are able to build up their portrayals. And Mr. Dickinson is touchingly callow as Paul (though he registers as significantly older than 16, the age Mr. Getty was when he was kidnapped).

But the show’s appealing performers and catchy look don’t yet outweigh its lack of cohesion and its readiness to fall back on platitudes about the corrosive effects of wealth. “All the Money in the World” was a character study, but so far “Trust” is more of a caricature.

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