Friday, August 20, 2010
Kevin Kline Just a Gigolo in "Extra Man"
“The Extra Man” is an old-fashioned comedy of manners. Though it is set in contemporary Manhattan, it has a prelude set in the late 20s or early 30s, when F. Scott Fitzgerald was in his prime.
Fitzgerald is a literary hero of Louis Ives (Paul Dano), a prep school literature teacher who is dropped from his post after an embarrassing incident.
Desperate for a job, Louis finds work as an entry-level employee at an environmental magazine New York City.
Louis has very little money, so he seeks out the cheapest apartment he can find.
When he answers an ad for a room to rent, he meets Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), the unconventional “extra man” of the title.
An “extra man” is another term for a professional escort or walker. A retired teacher with thwarted literary aspirations of his own, Henry makes a precarious living off rich women who need a man on their arm at social functions.
The role is perfect for Kevin Kline, who is masterful as a rueful, yet dignified Chaplinesque character.
Louis and Henry are an odd but oddly-suited couple. Both men are lonely and both are flawed. Louis is a compulsive cross-dresser; a quirk that doesn’t bother the actor-ly Henry at all.
Henry feels like a failure, and having a young friend and confidant is rejuvenating for him.
This film is dominated by Kevin Kline, but there is a small but interesting supporting role by Katie Holmes as a green-obsessed co-worker and potential love interest for Louis, and John C. Reilly as a flakey neighbor in Henry’s neighborhood.
Based on a novel by Jonathan Ames, “Extra Man” is a small, bittersweet film of interest to people who feel nostalgic about vanishing New York and vanishing dreams.