Tag Archives: Robert Altman

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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Boogie Woogie

14 Jul

Title: Boogie Woogie
Year: 2010
Director: Duncan Ward
Writer: Danny Moynihan
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Gillian Anderson, Stellan Skarsgard, Heather Graham, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Alan Cumming, Danny Huston, Gemma Atkinson
MPAA Rating:
Runtime: 94 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 5.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%

I’m unsure about how I feel about Boogie Woogie, I mean, from time to time I did find myself positively smiling and giggling at stuff this satire threw at me, but more often than that I found myself not really enjoying the process, finding this film to be ‘warm’ and in that temperature scale I just created to illustrate a point any satire has to be at ‘hot’ to be successful, this one had moments when it started getting hot, but just when it seemed to be able to get there a cool bucket of water chilled it down, and that process was tough to watch.

The film delves into the art scene of London, and while interesting at times and certainly with a good pedigree on the subject since it had some knowledgable people to take input from ,I think it could have submerged itself further on the subject at hand, the one bright spot in this film, and the reason why my grade for it will be better than it should really be, is the cast, which is seriously awesome, just take a look at all the names above, but still, the cast is given a weak script, the camerawork is extremely subpar and it generally doesn’t feel like the sort of movie it was clearly intended to be.

Now, even though I give praise to the actors in the cast, there are two things to mention, the direction the cast was given was clearly not great, and secondly and more importantly, even though they’re all good actors, they’re not that good as to make an Altman-esque film, which is the vibe this film shamelessly tried to pull off with a huge ensemble and a full-on exploration of a specific world or genre. Not to mention that Duncan Ward, the film’s director, is a first-time feature film director, and he’s certainly no Robert Altman, and when he’s five feature-length films into his career I doubt he’ll have a MASH like Altman did. But then again pretty much nobody can do what Altman did, so let’s not bully him, let’s just say he should’ve known better.

I won’t really go ahead and describe the whole plot, I saw the film more than two months ago and I probably forgot most of it anyway, but I’ll say that Amanda Seyfried is actually pretty good in it, even though I say that in pretty much anything she’s in, and Gillian Anderson is an actress I’ll watch in anything, and think she has become quite the charming actress post-X-Files. But again, for the pleasure I got from the castmembers I’ll give this film a rather okay grade, but unfortunately this film, while it does have its moments of nasty fun amidst it’s completely off’-target over -the-top demeanor, is one I’ll forget all about in a couple of months, just like I forgot the majority of its plot two months after watching it.

Grade: B-