Thin comedy "Extra Man" may disappoint

Tue Jan 26, 2010 9:45pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Kirk Honeycutt

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - "The Extra Man" collects eccentric characters like an antiques dealer collects aging objects.

No one is allowed in this movie unless he is pixilated. This makes for any number of amusing situations, strange lines, nutty ideas and humiliating embarrassments. But this odd collection of oddballs doesn't quite play out as a satisfying movie. Beneath its exaggerated surface is actually a fairly mundane tale of a young man finding himself in the big city.

The film's directors and co-writers, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, last appeared at Sundance in 2003 with "American Splendor," which won the Grand Jury Prize in the dramatic competition. Its main character, comic book writer Harvey Pekar, was no slouch as an eccentric either. But in that instance, the filmmakers mined a rich vein of drama, humor and psychological chaos to reveal the source of Pekar's creativity. "Man" misses this kind of scrutiny.

With a cast headed by Kevin Kline and the filmmakers' previous success, "Man" will attract adult audiences in specialty venues. There will be those who will enjoy a film with such gentile craziness. Despite the film's considerable wit, though, it is a disappointment for those who hoped to see the husband-and-wife team deepen their art. The film is just too taken with its eccentricities.

How eccentric, you ask? Well, the hero -- extricated from a novel by Jonathan Ames, who collaborated on the screen adaptation -- is Paul Dano's Louis Ives, a would-be novelist. He compulsively cross-dresses, keeps a running narration of his life in his head as though he were a character in a novel, and acts like a courtly gentlemen of the 1920s.

When Louis moves to New York, after being forced from his teaching position over an episode involving a brassiere, he finds lodging with Kline's Henry Harrison, a man of no discernible employment who collects Christmas balls, disapproves of education for women and in sexual matters finds himself to "the right of the Pope."

The downstairs neighbor, Gershon (John C. Reilly), hides his face behind wild dreadlocks and a huge beard, speaks in a falsetto but sings in a normal voice.

At night, Henry acts as an "extra man," a male escort for elderly, wealthy women, which takes him -- and the movie -- into a social circle of sycophants and dilettantes, none of whom you could accuse of being normal. There also is a hunchback Swiss opportunist (Jason Butler Harner) and a dominatrix (Patti D'Arbanville) who teaches Louis how to do drag, but you get the picture.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Kevin Kline arrives for the premiere of the film "The Extra Man" at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 25, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith</p>