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film review: The Extra Man

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
July 30, 2010 4:00 AM
3 Comments
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If you have any fondness for life’s oddballs, I think you’ll share my affection for the latest film from the writing/directing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who brought us American Splendor. The Extra Man, based on a novel by Jonathan Ames, focuses on two men who exist out of their time: Henry Harrison, a pompous, world-class eccentric who gets by as an escort, or “extra man,” for aging Manhattan society women, and Louis Ives, an unworldly academic with a propensity for cross-dressing.

Harrison is vividly brought to life by Kevin Kline, who seems to revel in his character’s peculiarities. He’s proudly, gloriously strange, a creature of his own invention. This is one of the best parts Kline has ever had, a golden opportunity for him to draw on his gift for—

—theatricality, yet somehow he finds the humanity that lurks behind Henry’s fearless façade. But it isn’t a solo turn: he’s matched, step for step, by Paul Dano, as the younger man who becomes Harrison’s uneasy protégé. From Little Miss Sunshine to There Will Be Blood, Dano has made his mark playing distinctive, unusual characters; he’s a talent worth watching, and treasuring.

The movie doesn’t judge these two figures: it lets us draw our own conclusions. Kline’s Harrison is a scavenger and a bit of a scoundrel, while Dano’s Ives is almost childlike and unformed. He develops a crush on office co-worker Katie Holmes and can’t explain his contradictory behavior to himself, let alone to her.

In a way, The Extra Man is out of its time, just like its protagonists. It’s an affectionate look at some of the colorful characters who populate New York City and make it unique. Perhaps it’s because I grew up there that I find the film so appealing—and credible. Berman and Pulcini make excellent use of the “real” city, avoiding obvious locations and landmarks, and they’ve done a fine job of casting right down to the smallest roles.

I know how tough it has become for independent filmmakers to get their movies made, and released, in a world that’s consumed by mainstream Hollywood product…but I’m awfully glad there’s still room for genuinely original pieces of work like The Extra Man.

To see my Secret's Out interview with Kevin Kline click HERE.

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3 Comments

  • Kurt | February 5, 2011 12:58 AMReply

    Have you seen this movie yet?
    I may get it on DVD

  • Jason | July 30, 2010 4:11 AMReply

    This film along with 'Life During Wartime' are reasons I need to move to bigger city. It's not going to show ANYWHERE near where I live. I can understand why people bootleg movies.

    I always knew Kevin Kline was a great actor and I can't wait to see his perfomance in this. I thought Paul Dano was great in 'There Will be Blood' easily holding his own against Daniel Day-Lewis. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves and I also wish I could catch his performance in this.

  • Langston | July 30, 2010 2:28 AMReply

    Isn't the film Paul Dano was in with Daniel Day Lewis named, "There will be Blood"?

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