15 September 2010

The Extra Man

***** (5 stars)

Last night word-of-the-day Jennie and I went to an advanced screening of "The Extra Man" starring Kevin Kline and Paul Dano. There is nothing more exciting than a free movie, except when that movie isn't even out yet or if the theatre has Coke Icee's. Yum...Icee...

Anyway, the movie is hilarious! Not only were we laughing (pretty par for the course regardless of what movie we're seeing), but the whole theatre was laughing as well. At a few points it was almost annoying as the laughter drowned out the dialogue. Better that than stunned silence though, I always say.
"The Extra Man" is about nebish and sexually confused Lewis Ives (Dano)- English Literature teacher and wayward loner. After losing his job, he moves to New York to pursue his passion for writing and ends up renting a room from fellow teacher Henry Harrison (Kline), who may or may not be insane. Harrison fancies himself a gentleman in the fashion of an F. Scott novel and offers his services as an extra man. Not to be confused with a gigolo ("Don't be crass"), an extra man provides wit, charm, and companionship in return for invitations to society parties, trips to Florida, and nice meals.

The dynamic between the two actors is undeniably entertaining. Dano looks like he may implode at any moment, his frail frame carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His awkwardness is almost painful to watch. By contrast Kline is a proud, stand up straight, sort of guy. He never pretends to be less than a bit unstable and particular, but it's always in an oddly charming sort of way. Watch for John C. Reilly as the (if possible) more eccentric downstairs neighbor and Tony Award winning actress Marian Seldes (fun trivia- she taught Kevin Kline while at Julliard) as billionairess Vivian Cudlip.

The only weak link for me is Katie Holmes, a fellow writer and proud vegan at the green journal where Lewis takes a job. Who dressed her? I mean, it's nice to see someone wear the same outfit twice in a movie (it's refreshing actually), but she is so stereotypically kookie New York it's painful. She appears to only have two emotions- wide-eyed surprise and wide-eyed confusion. What's worse is you know what she was trying to attain, a sort of innocence and ingenue status, but she never quite delivers. She doesn't just chew the scenery, she chomps down.

I don't want to give too much away. There are twists that must be seen to believe. I will say it is a must watch for fans of comedy, idiosyncratic behaviour, and cleverly intriguing story lines. You will not be disappointed!

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