Trust is crafted in a way that begs questions. Did John Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson) have a hand in his own kidnapping? Who even has the Getty princeling in the first place? What does that human statue guy know? Finally, Sunday night’s “La Dolce Vita” started to answer those questions by giving us a full view of Paul III’s Roman money problems, what led him to go begging for $6,000 from his grandfather John Paul Getty I (Donald Sutherland), and how the kidnapping plot spiraled out of control. And, what you realize is, fragile male egos are to blame for all of the bloody, fatal chaos of Trust.
The most important thing to notice throughout “Dolce Vita” is how drastically restaurateur Bertolini (Giuseppe Battiston), who we met in last week’s “Lone Star,” changes over the hour. At first, he seems bumbling at best. He’s the kind of man who is willing to ignore Paul III’s mounting cocaine debts because he knows the teen comes from a family of actual billionaires. Plus, Paul made him an adorable painting of his beloved dog Dolce, and who wouldn’t love that? While one mafioso reminds Berto he has his own debts to pay, the restaurant owner is nonplussed.
Then, everything changes when Paul’s terrible friend Marcello (Luca Tanganelli) invites Berto to a party thrown by Roman Polanski, who was better known at the time for directing hits like Rosemary’s Baby than a lurid history of pedophilia and sexual assault. Berto physically swells with pride over the invite, especially when Marcello assures the him, “You’re with the A-list now.” There’s no reason to worry about a measly $6,000 when you get to party with Oscar favorites.
Berto falls deeper down the ego rabbit hole as he preens for the bash. There’s a tender vulnerability to the tragically uncool middle-aged man carefully combing his hair to the side in preparation to meet a famed director. While Berto’s necklace and shirt are both gaudy, and it feels like he’s completely covered in oil, the would-be A-lister is convinced this is the hippest he’ll ever be. He’s so sure, he runs through a possible conversation with Polanski where the two become best pals. As Berto leaves his pampering session, he assures Dolce The Dog he’ll be able to party with Polanski “next time.” Unfortunately for Berto, there isn’t even a first time.
In a twist of the social knife, Paul and his effortlessly cool, beautiful friends ditch Berto, laughing directly in his face while they drive away on motorized bikes. Berto is left looking like a lame fool in the middle of the street, alone. Berto still manages to track down the party, but is locked outside, left to bang on walls, step in dog poop, and scream, “Mr. Polanski!” To add insult to injury, Berto can hear all the merrymaking inside, but the gates are so high, he can’t even get a glimpse of the fun he’s missing. Our cool teens have humiliated Berto in ways he never even thought possible.
With Berto’s ego smashed into pieces and strewn across the poo-covered cobblestones of Rome, Paul III's entire life is thrown into jeopardy. For Berto, it’s the only way to get revenge for the cruel laughter still ringing in his ears and the mess covering his best shoes. The next time we see the restaurateur, he’s full of rage, made up of demands, threats, and violence. At one point, Berto takes Paul to a random ruin to explain, in very Shakespearean detail, how he could kill him on that spot. Berto wants his money, and he wants it now.
That bloodthirsty lust for money owed, which is really a desire to feel any power over the boy who embarrassed him, is what pushes Paul to create the kidnapping get rich quick scheme after Paul The First refuses to pay his debts. If Berto wasn’t so upset about the Polanski party, everyone could have agreed to a payment plan or something. It’s doubtful selling a 16-year-old to a bunch of mobsters would have been everyone’s first choice. Yet, that’s exactly what happened, and a far scarier mafioso, Primo (Luca Marinelli), kills Berto to protect his own stake in Paul, who has been reduced to a hot investment property instead of a person.
Berto’s ego literally killed him.
The pitfalls of a stubborn male ego don’t stop with poor, dead Berto on Trust. Paul III is only driven to his terrible kidnapping scheme because his grandfather, the “richest man in the world,” refuses to give him $6,000 upon learning of the teen’s drug use. While Paul The First claims he won't hand over the cash because he doesn’t want to enable his grandson's vices, that’s not the true root of his reasoning. Rather, Paul I is upset his family is full of drug-addled “failures” in his mind, while fellow great American clans like the Vanderbilts and even the Kennedys, who are often accused of bootlegging before they made it into politics, have presidents and social luminaries among their ranks. Paul III was his grandfather’s last hope and then he had to go and develop a cocaine habit, dashing Paul The First’s ego-driven dreams of generational greatness.
Even Lang Jeffries (John Schwab), the partner of Paul III’s mother Gail Getty (Hilary Swank), has a part in this specific brand of Trust’s fatal, machismo-fueled self-importance. Lang’s hatred for Paul clearly stems from his own feelings of inadequacy in the face of the Getty fortune — and, Paul is the avatar for Lang’s jealousy. We see as much during the sleazy actor’s short appearance in “Dolce Vita,” and realize Lang is legitimately the sole reason Paul refuses to stay within the safety of his mother’s house. Since Paul wasn’t living at home, he ended up getting mixed up with the mob in Rome. And, we all know how that ends (it’s with a bag over Paul’s head).
We might think money is the root of all evil on Trust, but the real culprit here just might be ego.
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