THE EXTRA MAN - On DemandJune 30, 2010
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: The Extra Man, by new ODW contributor Amy Slotnick. Email Amy your comments.
“Gentleman Seeks Same to Share Apartment” is the headline that catches Louis Ives’ attention in a classified ad. Louis, played by Paul Dano (known best for “Little Miss Sunshine” and “There Will Be Blood”), imagines life as if he were the hero in a Fitzgerald novel, with a voice narrating his actions in the third person. When he is caught trying on a colleague’s brassiere at the Princeton prep school where he teaches, he finds himself without a job or place to live. In a quest to “find himself” and pursue his literary dreams, he heads to New York City and meets Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) a wildly eccentric, failed playwright who is looking for a gentleman to rent his spare cot.
Though Harrison is penniless and often senseless, living in a ramshackle apartment, his panache and sophisticated style appeals to Louis and their relationship soon becomes one of mentor-protégé. From Harrison, Louis learns such essential New York skills as how to discreetly urinate in public, how to get into the opera for free, and how to get rid of a flea infestation.
Louis is even more impressed with his new teacher when he discovers that Harrison often works as an “extra man” – a social escort to Manhattan’s high society seniors. As an escort to the wealthy, aging widows of New York, Harrison is their guest to posh events and benefits, maintaining the male-female ratio at their table and acting as arm candy of a certain sort. Envious of Harrison’s arrangement and the opportunity to hob-nob with New York high society, Louis begs Harrison to set him up as an extra man as well.
Meanwhile, Louis develops a crush on Mary (Katie Holmes), a liberal, vegan and beautiful co-worker at Louis’ new job. Mary is the heroine of Louis’ Fitzgerald fantasy, which he eventually fulfills by stealing her lingerie, using it to transform into a homely, drag version of her. Louis continues to explore his sexual ambivalence in New York’s transvestite bars, while simultaneously pursuing Mary and the niece of one of Harrison’s socialites.
Harrison’s frequent musing to himself, “There we are. Where are we?” serves as a mantra for the duality of this friendship with Louis. The pair are at once perfectly matched and dangerously co-dependent. Holmes’ Mary is complemented by a group of quintessentially New York, and hysterically funny supporting characters played by John C Reilly, Marian Seldes, Celia Weston, Patti D’Arbanville and Dan Hedaya.
The strange and eccentric characters of “The Extra Man” are refreshing and at times, hilarious, to encounter, especially during the summer months when comic book heroes, animated toys and flat action stars dominate the movies. Kline’s performance is exceptional, played with the joie de vivre and a sort of veiled sadness found in people who live on the edges of society.
Paul Dano seems to have built a career on playing unconventional characters that don’t speak much. But because his face is so expressive and nuanced, he is able to hold his own even with the extravagance of Kline’s character. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have made an old -fashioned indie comedy with originality and heart, taking us along with these absurd and sympathetic characters.
- Amy Slotnick
Amy Slotnick is a new contributor to On Demand Weekly. She works as an independent producer and freelance consultant to film financing start-ups. Previously she was a Senior VP of Production at Miramax Films.
THE EXTRA MAN available On Demand until 7/29/10
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Based on the novel by Jonathan Ames
Running Time: 108 minutes / Rated R