The Extra Man
dir Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
scr Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman, Jonathan Ames
with Paul Dano, Kevin Kline, Katie Holmes, John C Reilly, Patti D'Arbanville, Celia Weston, Marian Seldes, Dan Hedaya, Jason Butler Harner, Alicia Goranson, Alex Burns, Rafael Sardina
release UK Jun.10 eiff, US 30.Jul.10
10/US 1h47
The Extra Man
Completely bonkers: Dano and Kline

holmes reilly weston
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Extra Man Warm and quirky at the same time, this offbeat comedy follows a coming-of-age trajectory, although no one really learns anything along the way. But it at least provides Dano with a terrific character. And Kline with another grandstanding one.

When he loses his job teaching university English, Louis (Dano) decides to move to New York and achieve his dream of becoming a writer. He finds a flat to share with the outrageously eccentric Henry (Kline), who absorbs him into his obsessive old-world lifestyle as an extra man for a millionaire widower (Seldes). But Louis is struggling with his secret interest in cross-dressing, which he doesn't remotely understand. He certainly can't tell the deeply repressed Henry. Or the girl (Holmes) who catches his eye at his new job.

The film is sharply written with witty dialog that keeps us chuckling all the way through, giving the cast members plenty to play with as the colourful characters interact. And the conversations are riotous clashes of ideas that hold our interest. As directors, Berman and Pulcini give the film an intriguing visual tone that draws out the story's fairy tale overtones, complete with an omniscient narrator and highly stylised flashbacks.

Dano plays this extremely well, even standing his ground against rampant scene-stealers like Kline and Reilly (as their hilariously woolly neighbour). Henry's constant disapproval intriguingly echoes Louis' crippling self-doubt, which makes Holmes' prickly character feel like the voice of reason compared to these two childish men. Everyone in this film has strong opinions and private obsessions, and much of the comedy comes from how they try to temper one and hide the other.

In the end, the film feels somewhat awkward, nicely echoing Louis' naive perspective as a basically nice guy surrounded by nutcases. Essentially it's just a slice-of-life story about a writer discovering that the world is perhaps even more varied and textured than his own imagination. But this isn't particularly revelatory for a film, and all we're left with is Henry's amusingly obvious adage: "So, here we are. Where are we?" Which pretty much sums up our feeling at the end too.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 18.Jun.10 eiff

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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall