Tuesday, July 27, 2010



Kevin Kline
A Magnolia Pictures release
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Kevin Kline is brilliant in The Extra Man. (He is also brilliant outside of The Extra Man -- see below.)

This film is very funny.

(Note: According to the NYT (Sunday Arts p 6 , July 25, 2010), as an online reviewer/interviewer/journalist, I need to add that the film is "quirky, eccentric, off-beat".)

An "Extra Man" is not a gigolo, he is the unpaid (apparently), sometimes compensated (perhaps with a free meal, free cultural event, or free vacation apartment), non-fornicating escort for (usually) old women who need a companion at events.

Kevin Kline (as Henry Harrison) is the quintessential Extra Man. Paul Dano (as Louis Ives) is a young man of confused sexual identity who takes (ie rents) a room (actually, basically, just a bed in a not very private room) in Henry's apartment. Louis lives with a voice narrating his life in the style of Nick in The Great Gatsby (much the way other boys live with a baseball announcer calling the life they are living).

Henry is a brilliant, but unproduced playwright, whose one copy of his first (and only) play disappeared because (he believes) it was stolen. He is old-fashioned, sexually blocked, sexually obsessed, strongly opinionated -- often to the point of rudeness, extremely cultured, something of a master at certain cons, and incredibly poor.

"Incredible," however, means not credible; ie unbelievable. (The film therefore does require some strong "suspension of disbelief".) I tried, but could not convince myself that Henry could be as poor as he is described (for example, he owns a car that is decrepit beyond disgrace, something Henry's taste, I suspect, could not tolerate.) He has a job -- teaching in Queens. He is excellent at manipulating people, and the old women he escorts are very wealthy. I could not convince myself that between his teaching job, his skill at cons, and his wealthy friends, he could not acquire a comfortable income (and drive a car -- however ancient -- that looked really good in its own way).

The film also ends with a too-quick/too-soft landing, which seemed to require too big and too sudden a shift to tolerance from the demandingly intolerant personality Henry had so far exhibited.

But these two issues are minor, compared with the film's strengths -- it's a very funny film with fascinating characters and rich, humorous characterizations through superlative acting by some of New York's best actors.

Shari Springer Berman
Photo by Eric Roffman

The film is based on a novel which, in turn, is said to be based on the real experience of the author, Jonathan Ames. The film is directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (who by all accounts worked extremely efficiently as a team). They began as documentary filmmakers, and have made a career of fictional versions of real stories. Their (award winning) film, American Splendor, was based on the life and work of Harvey Pekar (who, sadly, just passed away). They are currently working on a film for HBO, "Cinema Verite," based on the story of the filming of the story of the Louds, who were themselves one of the first "reality TV" personalities.

John C. Reilly
A Magnolia Pictures release
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Supporting roles are excellent. Katie Holmes has a small role (but is quite lovely) in the movie. John C. Reilly is hysterical. Marion Seldes and other classic actors contribute finely tuned performances.

Katie Holmes and Paul Dano
A Magnolia Pictures release
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Paul Dano continues his portrtayal of extremely strong characters that speak softly and behave in a retiring manner. (He's like that in person , too.) His films include
Gigantic with Zooey Deschanel, There Will be Blood, with Daniel Day Lewis, and Tom Cruise's Knight and Day -- as Simon Feck, the inventor of the Zephyr battery.

He is currently in production (playing a cowboy) in Jon Favreau's Cowboys and Aliens.

Kevin Kline trained first in classical piano at Indiana, then switched to acting, joining the acting program at Juilliard. An actor with extraordinary range, from classical tragedy to modern comedy, he is a master of Chekhov: He has performed in The Seagull, under the direction of Mike Nichols, and played one of the rare productions of Ivanov, Chekhov's early and challenging masterpiece. He has performed many roles in many plays of Shakespeare, including a celebrated version of the "Seven Ages of Man" speech in Kenneth Branagh's film of As You Like It, and an iambic-pentameter-free Shakespeare duel with Steven Colbert
(see below).

He has done serious roles, musical roles, and comic roles in both theater and film, including the classic political comedy film, Dave.

He's a thoughtful, quick-witted, well-spoken, highly knowledgeable actor. He'd be a great teacher if he had the time, and I'd love to see work he directed.

He is one of the most versatile, terrific actors around. It is a pleasure to see him in this fine, funny, multi-dimensional, completely original role.


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Kevin Kline

Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

Labels: , , , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


    follow me on Twitter

    QPORIT --
    Quick PREVIEWS Of Random Interesting Things

    (c) Copyright 2005-2009 Eric H. Roffman
    All rights reserved