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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: July 1: The Extra Man


July 1: The Extra Man

"A man who escorts wealthy widows in New York's Upper East Side takes a young aspiring playwright under his wing."
Directed by: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini, Rated: R, 108 minutes

Now, I am usually an avid fan of Kevin Kline, loving nearly everything he is in. I even like Wild, Wild, West based purely on his performance. I'll give anything he is in a chance, and I went into The Extra Man thinking it would be a little gem. I was certainly wrong. The Extra Man is the type of film that tries way too hard to be "quirky", but instead turns out to be incredibly annoying. It does have its moments, but when you look at the movie as a whole, it feels like a bunch of randomness strung together on a laundry line that stayed out to dry a little too long. It's stiff, stale, and quite the mess.

Hell, this is even more enjoyable to watch. Peaceful, serene, and probably smells a lot nicer. 

The story follows Louis (Paul Dano), an emotionally f**ked up man who moves to Manhattan to follow his writing dreams. He moves into an apartment with Henry (Kline), a wannabe aristocrat who moonlights as an escort to the city's wealthiest widows. As Louis tries to discover who he is and flirt with his odd inner desires, he begins to learn about the eccentricities and the perks of trying to live the high life in one of the world's grandest cities. Oh, Louis has an odd curiosity towards woman's clothing and even experiments with cross-dressing. I'm not saying that it's necessary wrong to do so, but the way Louis is portrayed makes him come across as a sheltered, perverted weirdo. I am also a huge fan of Paul Dano (he is great in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood), but he's following the career paths of Michael Cera, John Heder, and  even Jesse Eisenberg, playing the same, socially awkward loner over and over. 

A little creepier looking though. 

The Extra Man can't decide on what kind of movie it wants to be. It jumps drastically from comedy to drama and it's in these transitions that the film loses itself completely. I blame the directing and the script. Although the directing duo of Berman and Pulcini did make the great American Splendor, I feel the two did not work together at all on this film. With the mess at hand, I can only assume each director showed up on his/her schedule and filmed a scene on his/her own, without consulting the other. The film lacks a singular heart, style, and theme. As for the script, it's just as big of a mess as the directing. I am a huge fan of Jonathan Ames, one of the screenwriters and the author of the novel on which the film is based. His TV series, Bored to Death, is one of my favorite shows of all time. However, The Extra Man is far from the quality of his show, and it's a huge disappointment. The characters lack nearly all likability and are more annoying than they are funny or developed. While Kline and Dano's acting is good, the characters they create are victims to the script. John C. Reilly is a saving grace, playing Henry's neighbor, Gershon. However, he has very little screen time and is tiny role cannot save the film. Oh, and Katie Holmes sneaks in as a possible love-interest to Louis, but the two share absolutely no chemistry and her character's a total bitch. Why would an introvert intellectual fall for a shallow, fake semi-attractive working girl?

One of her many career casualties after marrying Tom Cruise. 

Skip The Extra Man. It has a good premise but is executed with way too many flaws to maintain any quality storytelling. It's all over the place, never knowing what it is, and in it's attempt to be out of the box and original, it instead turns out to be very annoying. I don't know if Kevin Kline is getting worse with age but he certainly does not save a movie like he used to. 

The Good:
John C. Reilly with a full grizzly man beard
The Bad:
a cast made nearly entirely of unlikable, too-weird characters
The Ugly:
a messy script and directing that turns a good premise into a movie with a terrible identity crisis 

Overall: 3.8/10


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