The Extra Man
- Director:Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
- Cast:Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly
- Release Date:September 16, 2010
- Running time:107 minutes
- Film Worth:$7.50
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Too clever for its own good, this film moves abruptly between serious drama and broad comedy.
With The Extra Man, husband-and-wife filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have developed an unfortunate case of the quirks, placing them into a small sub-set of independent American filmmakers like Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) and Zach Braff (Garden State) who favour arch cleverness and smug pretention over genuine, sincere engagement with their characters.
An adaptation of the 1998 novel by Jonathan Ames, The Extra Man stars There Will Be Blood's Paul Dano as Louis Ives, a former teacher whose proclivities for cross dressing have led to his termination from an Ivy League college. Moving to New York for the first time, Louis is mentored by roommate Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), an "extra man", or society walker, who provides wealthy widows with male company.
With a barrage of funny names, "comedy" accents, one-dimensional quirks, and unsatisfactory slapstick, The Extra Man is an uneasy blend of comedy and drama. Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini - who made their name with the revered comic book adaptation American Splendor, but impressed no-one with their follow-up, The Nanny Diaries - lunge from fairytale to broad farce to relationship drama with minimal finesse.
The writer-directors posit their adaptation as a wry, modern fable, but their clever-clever approach soon becomes a case of "quirk-overload." The performances suffer from this uneven approach. Kline is an extremely gifted stage and screen comedian, capable of giving subtle (The Ice Storm) and not-so-subtle (In & Out, A Fish Called Wanda) comic turns, but he needs a firmer hand behind the camera, with the filmmakers here allowing the Oscar winner to give a broad, bombastic performance. An old man in a younger man's body, Dano fares better, and - like Kline - is even affecting in the later stages, but is undermined by Pulcini and Springer Berman's pompous attempts at humour.