The Extra Man is filled with characters, but it’s woefully short on recognizable three-dimensional human beings.
Kevin Kline, looking very much like the lost member of Monty Python, plays Henry Harrison, an aristocratic-sounding, casually sexist and racist Manhattanite living in a cramped three-room apartment who makes his living mooching off wealthy older women whom he accompanies to social functions. Into Henry’s world comes Louis Ives (Paul Dano), a twentysomething former English professor who flirts with becoming a transvestite, and believes a narrator comments on his daily existence as if he lived in an F. Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James novel. Louis rents one of Henry’s rooms, and before long the persnickety older man is instructing his new tenant on how to sneak into the opera and forcing the innocent newcomer to listen to his often-spiteful rants. Meanwhile, Louis lands a job at a magazine, and tries to hide his cross-dressing impulses from both Henry and Mary (Katie Holmes), the co-worker he’s crushing on.
In many ways, The Extra Man feels like a fusion of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s previous two films -- American Splendor and The Nanny Diaries -- by transplanting the main character from the former and dropping him into the social setting of the latter. The eccentric Henry Harrison sure feels like a wannabe upper-crust variation on Harvey Pekar, and the movie’s often-charming observations about how to survive in Manhattan give him plenty of opportunity to rant about the elements of existence he finds most distasteful. Kline brings an outsized theatricality to Henry, and that’s really the only way to play him. He’s complemented by Dano, who plays innocence and longing with such wide-eyed openness that he brings to mind Bud Cort. And John C. Reilly elevates the quirk level even higher as a hirsute neighbor with peculiar sexual appetites and an unforgettable voice.
This is a bunch of eccentric nuts, but the problem is that the script never manages to make us believe that these are real people with anything at stake. They’re more like an English student’s idea of a comedy duo rather than actual human beings, and the relentless wackiness keeps us at an emotional distance that prevents the film from growing into something substantial. The Extra Man has its heart in the right place; it’s just that the heart isn’t beating.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: R
- Review: The Extra Man is filled with characters, but it’s woefully short on recognizable three-dimensional human beings. Kevin Kline, looking very much like the lost member of Monty Python, plays Henry Harrison, an aristocratic-sounding, casually sexist and ra… (more)