The Extra Man

11 Aug

Title: The Extra Man
Year: 2010
Directors: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
Writers: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, based on the novel by Jonathan Ames
Starring: Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, Marian Seldes
MPAA Rating: R, some sexual content
Runtime: 105 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%

Kevin Kline’s performance in The Extra Man should be enough for one to like, or at the very least enjoy, this film, the rest of the film may be uneven, and not come close to matching the awesomeness of the novel the great Jonathan Ames released a bit over a decade ago which serves as the source material for this film, but Mr. Kline’s performance is damn fine. This really is a charming little film, whimsical though uneven, but charming nevertheless.

The directors of this film, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini are the same team that made a seriously impressive debut with American Splendor adapted from Harvey Pekar’s graphic novels, then did the rather crappy adaptation of the chick-lit novel The Nanny Diaries, and they are now tackling this one, so they have adapted moody autobiographical comics, really light chick-lit and now this sort of modern urban tale, all to different degrees of success, of course, The Extra Man would rank somewhere in between their two other efforts, it’s good enough, but it’s no American Splendor.

In this one we have Louis Ives, played by Paul Dano, a guy who after being fired from his teaching job moves to New York with aspirations of becoming a novelist, and rents a room from a man who says is a playwright named Henry Harrison, Mr. Kline’s character, a man four decades his senior who has this sort of grandiose air about him. Henry however, really isn’t wealthy or whatever (otherwise he wouldn’t need the rent, after all), but he is good-looking and charming enough for actual wealthy older women to get him to accompany them to social events, he’s an escort for rich single/divorced/widowed old ladies, and he loves that.

Mr. Kline is a tremendous actor, that he only has one Academy Award nomination to his name is shocking to realize (even though he did win that one), a look at his work of the last decade or so will reveal he has had a couple of misteps, namely Wild Wild West and The Pink Panther, but otherwise you’ll see that he has produced really solid performances, even though sometimes the film in which he gave it wasn’t as great. In 2002 he did The Emperor’s Club, an otherwise mediocre film but with a solid performance by him, in 2004 he took the lead role in De-Lovely in which he, again, gave a marvelous performance even if the end-result was horribly sub-par, and a couple years ago he had a short but scene-stealing role in the rom-com Definitely, Maybe. Add that to the two great performances in great films he gave in the last decade, the first one being in 2001’s Life as House which is a film I personally loved, and the last one being in A Prairie Home Companion, the last film of the legendary Robert Altman, and you’ll see that this is a man who, even if the material isn’t astonishing, will find a way to give a winning performance.

His character in The Extra Man is quite fun to watch on-screen, he is just gossipy and well-cultured and a total life-lover who’s sort-of asexual in many ways and who truly does live for the social events he is invited to, even though the ladies that he escorts want nothing more than company in front of the high society from him, not even sexually. And how Henry interacts with Louis is also quite endearing to watch because, let’s not forget, Paul Dano is a pretty good actor himself.

Louis is a guy who meddles with S&M at one point in the film, so you know he’s not entirely ‘normal’ either, it’s actually really sweet to see how he starts going after Katie Holmes’ character, Mary, a girl who works with him at his new job writing for an environmental magazine and who’s obsessively eco-friendly, and that’s because Mr. Dano is good at attributing these sort of more nuanced emotions to his performances, the one he gave in Little Miss Sunshine being the prime case-in-point. And while Henry may be the one who steals the spotlight because of his loud eccentricities and wonderful portrayal from Mr. Kline this really is Louis’ story, a story of him dealing with this strong personality he is posed to live with and finally finding himself an identity.

And as such I enjoyed The Extra Man, I didn’t love the film as much as I did Mr. Kline’s performance, but I definitely enjoyed it, it was just too rough around the edges for me to fully fall in love with it. But still, this is a nice little film, one that I would indeed suggest for people to go check out, and one that boasts a masterful performance from Mr. Kline and a pretty solid one from Mr. Dano. Now, the surprising thing I have to say is about the supporting performances, the main two of these being the one’s given by Ms. Holmes in the aforementioned role and John C. Reilly as the downstairs neighbor, I was fully expecting to hate Ms. Holmes’ performance, who hasn’t really been good in a while, and like the one by Mr. Reilly, who has to be one of the most reliable actors we have around nowadays, and instead I found myself loving the performance by Ms. Holmes and thinking the one by Mr. Reilly was decidedly unflattering, and, much like this realization, I found The Extra Man as a film itself to be a nice little surprise, far from perfect and not what one expected, but one I welcomed.

Grade: B

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