Trust the man has just hit pay TV in Australia. It's a romantic comedy (aka chick flick) about two couples struggling through crises in their relationships.
The first couple have done a role reversal. Rebecca is a successful actress returning to the stage after having children; Tom has given up a job in advertising to stay home and look after the kids.
The second couple, Tobey and Elaine, have been living together, as "free spirits", for seven years.
The film doesn't put a liberal gloss on the relationships. The stay-at-home dad situation isn't working well. Tom is having a crisis in masculine identity and doesn't know who he is. His one consolation is internet porn. Rebecca, for her part, resents the suggestion that her role as wife and mother is now secondary to her career.
Nor is Elaine happy. She can no longer convince herself that she wants to live the single girl lifestyle forever. She now wants to get married and have kids. Tobey, though, is not good husband and father material. He is suffering an existential angst, which keeps him disengaged from life and selfishly immature.
The couples split apart. What can reconcile them? Here the message of the film is a little confused. To some degree, the film goes against liberal orthodoxy. The two men, both of them aimless and disoriented in their lives, realise that there is something worth striving for.
For Tom, it's family life. He misses his children and can't bear to live apart from them. So he tries to gain control over his more destructive behaviours. For Tobey, it's his love for Elaine. To win her love he has to be more serious and sincere in his attitudes.
So the basic message isn't too bad. It's that love and family are goods worth striving for as a man - that they justify an adult commitment to life.
So why is the film largely unsatisfying? One reason, I think, is that the two men are presented all too well as being cut adrift in life. They are hollow men, without a sustaining connection to their own masculinity, to work, to community or nation, to church, to nature or to culture.
Not only does this make it hard to identify with the men as characters, it also makes their eventual turnaround seem desperate. They are clutching at something left over, something offered to them by the much more grounded and mature women in their lives.
Nor do either of the men really challenge the overall drift of things. In the final scene we see Tom and Rebecca in a plane, now happily reconciled. Rebecca's career is going well, and the reinvigorated Tom has won the gushing admiration of a stewardess for writing a book about childcare.
This is a return to the more orthodox liberal idea that we can build a life around our own individual "projects", like book writing, and through status and career success.
The film doesn't really seem to have taken us anywhere. We started out with Tom being dissatisfied with what career status and career success brought him; now we're supposed to think that he's finally arrived through ... career status and success.
It makes me think that liberals, even when they recognise that something has gone wrong, have rejected too much to be able to offer a persuasive alternative.