THE EXTRA MAN. Starring Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes and John C Reilly. Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini. Rated M (sexual references and infrequent coarse language). 107 minutes.
That is a reviewer’s word choice to indicate the tone and style of this film about a group of eccentrics who aspire to and live the high life of New York society (and holidaying in Florida). The film is more amusing than funny (though there are some good laugh sequences and one-liners), a comedy of manners, both good and bad manners, and relies on its off-kilter characters and the strong performances to communicate this oddball world.
As the film opens with a Gatsby-like mansion, we find our anti-hero, Louis Ives, imagining himself as Jay Gatsby only to find that he is Daisy as well. This leads to a theme where he thinks he is a woman and is into cross-dressing with the help of some S and M mistresses, though avoiding any sadism or masochism. He is played by the young, ganglingly awkward actor, Paul Dano, so impressive and different in Little Miss Sunshine and the villain in There Will be Blood. A would-be writer who works for a Green magazine, we follow his Candide–like adventures in New York.
While he is the main character, the spotlight falls on Henry Harrison, played by Kevin Kline as a waspish dandy, a ‘walker’ for elderly grandes dames who need an escort for social functions or, simply, for an elegant afternoon tea outing. He accepts Louis as a boarder and, after getting accustomed to his odd behavior and comments, Louis begins to ape his mentor. Kevin Kline is given many witty lines, rather misanthropic and conservative-sounding, and he delivers them with relish and panache.
One neighbour is a hirsute John C. Reilley who, when he finally speaks, is trapped in a falsetto register (except when he sings Somewhere My Love). In the cast are Katy Holmes as Louis’s co-worker at an environmental magazine, Celia Weston as a society follower who imposes herself on functions and Marian Seldes as the grande dame of all grandes dames.
The film may not appeal right across the board with its characters trying to live an F. Scott Fitzgerald life in the 21st century and their wry humour. But, for those who appreciate something a little different and touches of wit and irony, this will be quite a pleasure.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released September 16 2010.