Is it possible to be completely riveted by an actor's performance, yet still want to see less of them?
After seeing the first three episodes of FX's new drama, "Trust," I can tell you that yes, it is possible, as Donald Sutherland gives a tour de force performance, but his character is so incredibly creepy that the show actually improves when he's not onscreen. Yet, Sutherland's character is only one of the problems with FX's latest too over-the-top tale inspired by actual events.
Sutherland is oil tycoon J. Paul Getty Sr., who, in 1973 when the show begins, is the richest man in the world. He holes himself up in a large mansion with his harem of mistresses, who he pits against each other for his affection.
The family patriarch has a terrible relationship with his family, which comes to the forefront after his 16-year-old grandson, John Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson), is kidnapped by the Italian mafia, who are looking for a big payday. But Paul's grandfather vows to not pay a single penny to the kidnappers. Fueling Paul Sr.'s public refusal to negotiate is his "fixer," James Fletcher Chace (Brendan Fraser), a former CIA agent who is convinced that the kidnapping is a hoax. That leaves only the teenager's mother, Gail (Hilary Swank), to fight for his freedom.
If this sounds similar to last year's film "All the Money in the World," it's because "Trust" and "Money" are inspired by the same events. However, FX promises that "Trust" will share much more about the Getty family than just the kidnapping.
To say the senior Getty, as he is portrayed here, is eccentric is a major understatement. His butler puts on his underwear, after all. But the show's writers take the character too far by giving us every sordid detail. Living with a group of women would tell us enough, but we're forced to learn about his rotation schedule and all of the means he uses in order to be able to be with them. Sutherland seems to relish playing every sordid moment, but each of them takes away from his riveting performance and actually makes you wish for him to go away so you can concentrate more on Paul, the show's most interesting character.
But the creepiness of Paul Sr. is not the only problem, as the show never seems to decide on the right narrative device. Dialogue is interspersed with random video clips for no reason, and the second episode features a character talking straight to the camera, which is totally inconsistent with the other two episodes I saw or this kind of drama. The plot is also a little confusing as the show waits too long to really explain who the characters are. The majority of the cast is outstanding, but Fraser never quite nails the larger-than-life Texan Chace, thereby hindering the development of the entire second episode.
If "Trust" had played the Getty story straight without trying to be artistic or shocking, FX would really have something here. But instead the whole thing comes off like a dry oil well - oozing with potential, but void of results.
"Trust" premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday, March 25, on FX.
Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.