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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comic gem for lovers of quirk
Writer Jonathan Ames seems to be a media darling these days. Creator of the successful HBO television series Bored to Death, he's now making the leap to the big screen with this adaptation of his 1998 novel, The Extra Man. Two adjectives that immediately spring to mind, whether speaking of Ames's fiction, non-fiction, or his life, are quirky and comic. And those are...
Published on August 13, 2010 by Susan Tunis

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars HAPPY BISSEXTILE DAY
Louis Ives (Paul Dano) has a fascination with women's undergarments, and on occasion likes to wear them. This issue causes him to leave his teaching job and go to New York where he gets a job with an environmental magazine where he develops an interest for vegan Katie Holmes. Meanwhile, Louis takes up residence with the extremely quirky Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) who...
Published on May 20, 2012 by The Movie Guy


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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comic gem for lovers of quirk, August 13, 2010
By 
Writer Jonathan Ames seems to be a media darling these days. Creator of the successful HBO television series Bored to Death, he's now making the leap to the big screen with this adaptation of his 1998 novel, The Extra Man. Two adjectives that immediately spring to mind, whether speaking of Ames's fiction, non-fiction, or his life, are quirky and comic. And those are definitely the two adjectives that describe this film, co-written and directed by husband and wife team Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman.

It's the search-for-identity story of Louis Ives (Paul Dano), a young English teacher we see fired in the film's opening scene. Louis uses the setback to follow his heart to Manhattan, where he hopes to pursue a career as a writer. His first priority is to find a home, which leads him to answer the apartment-sharing ad of the endlessly eccentric Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline). Soon, the introverted Louis gets sucked into Henry's wacky world, peopled with the likes of elderly billionairess Vivian Cudlip (Marian Seldes) and Klingon-like neighbor Gershon (John C. Reilly).

This is an odd story filled with quirky and sometimes off-putting characters. There's something anachronistic about Dano's Louis, exhibited outwardly in old-fashioned manners and vintagey three-piece suits and inwardly in his Gatsby-esque fantasy life. Classic fiction isn't the only thing Louis fantasizes about, though. In fact, he's tentatively exploring his sexuality and trying to come to terms with transvestite urges, all while pining for a pretty co-worker (Katie Holmes).

Henry, on the other hand, is larger than life, and Kevin Kline throws himself fully into the role--literally, as it happens, when the character dances. Henry isn't particularly nice. He doesn't much like women, and is adamantly against sex. He describes himself as, "somewhere right of the Pope." His apartment is cluttered and filthy. He's ethically-challenged and teaches Louis how to scam tickets to the opera and urinate in public. He is not the best role model. And, yet, that is exactly what he becomes, introducing Louis to the concept of "the extra man."

Henry's lifestyle is sustained by squiring wealthy elderly woman to their dinners and art openings and vacation homes. And it is Kline's innate charm, despite the character's flaws, that makes him believable in the role. It is also Kline's over-the-top performance that drives the film's humor. His line readings are priceless, and you simply can't help but laugh at his antics. In fact, a day after seeing the film, I dissolved into tears trying to describe him attempting to wipe his fleas onto a Yorkshire terrier. Who does that?

This isn't a mainstream film, and it won't appeal to every viewer. The humor is smart, edgy, strange, sophisticated, physical, and just weird. But I laughed long and loud. The performances (many by New York stage actors) were excellent, and Kevin Kline's alone is worth the price of admission. Not every joke lands, and parts of the film are uneven, but I never knew what would happen next. I think The Extra Man will find its audience among fans of Wes Anderson's quirky, charismatic films. It deserves to find an audience. Take a break from formulaic summer fare and give it a chance.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Feel-Great Movie, August 25, 2010
This review is from: The Extra Man (DVD)
"The Extra Man" is a great comic experience, a joyful movie providing a lot of laughs with the sheer enjoyment of life bubbling in it.
The movie is about two fruitcakes, two off-the-wall flakes who get together and blend their nuttiness into a friendship. Louis (Paul Danol) is kind of unworldly, a dreamer, a teacher in an exclusive prep school in Princeton, New Jersey. Louis has an urge to be a cross dresser, and is turned on by women's undergarments. One day while holding up a bra to his chest in the faculty room, he's caught by a matronly staff member, is canned, and decides to go to New York to become a writer. He has always admired Gatsby.
In New York he answers an ad for apartment sharing and is interviewed by Henry Harrison, an older "gentleman" (brilliantly played by Kevin Kline), the apartment's resident tenant, who has weird, iconoclastic and screwy ideas about everything. Henry is broke but he's a walker, an extra man who accompanies women to dinners and events. He's not a gigolo, but he does like the good life with his wealthy older women friends of the Palm Beach circuit. Henry is his own worst enemy, is finicky, touchy, hypercritical and turns people off.
A neighbor in the apartment building is Gershon (John C. Reilly) another kook who is very funny because of his high-pitched voice (adopted for this movie). I think this is the kind of movie Charles Dickens would have loved, because the characters are done in broad strokes of caricature. Anyone who has lived in Manhattan will know that these oddballs would fit right in. In the movie nothing seems totally realistic, but that's the essence of comedy: the odd, the eccentric, off-the-wall fun.
One of the really exhilarating moments in the film is when Kline is teaching Louis how to waltz on the beach in the Hamptons with Reilly singing into a "microphone", a hood ornament that Henry has broken off a car inadvertently. It is a feel-great moment in the movie.
Kline is funny when he's teaching Louis how to relieve himself surreptitiously in the street, or when he's trying to transfer his fleas to a wealthy woman's lap dog.
It's great acting. You feel like you are really in New York, but it is hard to tell which era you're in because the director wants you to feel as if you've slipped back a generation or two in time. Both Henry and Louis live in the past and would be happier living in a previous era.
The movie`s wacky characters reminded me of a "Seinfeld" kind of humor. I haven't seen a movie in a long time that kept me laughing the way this one did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't understand the hate!, September 2, 2012
This review is from: The Extra Man [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I just watched this last night, and to be frank I don't understand the hate. I felt that Kevin Kline is a hilarious character in this film, he lights up the screen every chance he can get. He did great in this. Paul Dano is also one of my favorite actors, and I thought he did great as well. The supporting characters like John C. Reilly and Katie Holmes did great as well. I found it very entertaining and I would definitely watch it again. I would highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect script for Mr. Kline, the Cary Grant of his generation, October 13, 2011
Not the perfect movie, but the perfect role. Kline's inept charisma is quite charming as the odd little man trying to be dashingly bold in spite of his crumbling existence. Romantic and whimsical as the seemingly unessential man defines his essential existence. We are all free to dream and create our dream reality. Thumbs up.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life Is Not What You Think It Is...Or Could Be......, July 13, 2010
By 
Jonathan Ames, a writer of eccentric novels, penned the book on which this bizarre film is based. His story of confused identities and searching for a workable concept of self was adapted for the screen by Ames with help from co-directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. It is a confusing tale to watch but has moments of comedic insight and a cat of well-known actors that help to make the film entertaining - if a bit of fluff.

We meet English teacher Louis Ives (Paul Dano) after a prelude of daydreaming the three factors that characterize Louis - his obsession with classic literature of the 1920s, his untrained perception of how to relate to people (`awkward' would be a kind term), and his penchant for fantasizing about cross dressing. He is dismissed from his school `due to budget cuts' (read `having been discovered trying on a bra and being caught by the headmaster'), yet his inappropriate response is one of glee at having been given the opportunity to move to Manhattan to become a writer.

Once in New York City without connections, he answers an ad for an inexpensive apartment sharing - the ad having been submitted by one very strange Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), an older down on his heels writer and playwright who supports himself teaching college level literature and who considers himself an aristocrat, serving as an `escort' for older wealthy women. After an uncomfortable interview Henry consents to allow Louis to be his roommate: after weighing his options Louis accepts the room in the flea infested filthy apartment and begins trying to get to know the secretive and zany Henry.

Henry provides companionship for one Vivian (Marion Seldes) and eventually Louis is brought in as an `extra man' to provide companionship for one of Vivian's friends (Celia Watson). In the meantime Louis finds work as a telephone salesman for a Green magazine, meets the pretty but unavailable Mary (Katie Holmes), begins to encounter Henry's entourage of loonies such as Henry's bearded and dirty repairman Gershon (John C. Reilly), and gives in to his urge to learn about cross-dressing by visiting a `teacher ` and finally a make-over artist who places him in the role of a `woman'. Louis' experience with transvestism fails and alienates Henry - for a brief time. But what this comedic episode results in is Louis' discovery of what is important - friends and family - and Henry and his entourage supply that and the changes this brings in all the characters draws the film to a close.

With a cast such as this we find ourselves wanting to connect with each character - bizarre though they all are - and to a degree this occurs. But the script is spotty and the direction is bumpy and in many ways it feels as though the film simply never gets off the ground. Good moments: no after taste to savor. Grady Harp, July 10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I can't help but see a touch of 'Harold and Maude' here., December 25, 2012
This review is from: The Extra Man (DVD)
Paul Dano has in my opinion a Bud Cort ala 'Harold and Maude' presentation of his character going on in this film. And the fact that he has romantic (though strictly platonic and to a much lesser extent in this case) feelings for a much older woman, to a small extent also brings to mind H&M to me. I don't feel it quite reaches H&M's level of sustained quirkiness, but it does have enough to place it in the same 'quirky film genre' if you will. Had EM had a prominent soundtrack to the film, I think it would have been a plus, as H&M's Cat Stevens songs are a perfect addition to it's production! Maybe some Sufjan Stevens? The movie is very good, not great. Be prepared for something a little different. If you've seen 'Harold and Maude' and liked that film, I think that very possibly you could appreciate the statements made within this picture. Enjoy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars HAPPY BISSEXTILE DAY, May 20, 2012
Louis Ives (Paul Dano) has a fascination with women's undergarments, and on occasion likes to wear them. This issue causes him to leave his teaching job and go to New York where he gets a job with an environmental magazine where he develops an interest for vegan Katie Holmes. Meanwhile, Louis takes up residence with the extremely quirky Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) who enlists Louis to be an "extra man" i.e. a non-sexual cultured escort for older women of wealth. The job doesn't pay, but you do get to meet rich people and go to expensive places.

The part of being the escort I found entertaining, more so then the cross dress fetish. I expected Louis to have gotten "introduced" awkwardly to Katie Holmes on one of his assignments, but such was not the case. The writers tried to be too cute and clever by introducing too many different themes...i.e. let's toss it at the wall and see what stick. If you like indie films, worth a view.

No f-bombs, sex, or nudity
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kevin Kline is absolutely hilarious in this very sharp, smart, goofy flick, January 5, 2011
This review is from: The Extra Man (DVD)
4.5895 stars

I'm surprised by the tepid reception this got, but their loss! I howled with laughter many many times during this incredibly droll film, especially at the Kline scenes. The guy has never been funnier, except maybe in Wanda. This kind of humor is probably waaay too dry for many, but if you like Wes Anderson or Jared Hess or any other off-beat, smart new writer/director, there's something for you here.

I'd go so far as to compare this to Withnail And I and Death At A Funeral (the original) for its sustained yet muffled hilarity, and those are two of the funniest modern movies I know. Not all of The Extra Man is great, but most of it is, if your mind is open and your funny bone doesn't mind being tickled from various obtuse angles. I laughed more during this film than most any movie I've seen in a year or two, but then I like it dry, and this is that, to be sure.

Ames' characters are both endearing and frustrating, and ring true in all their satiric excesses. I liked everyone in this, and even Reilly's campy voicework somehow fits in, particularly in the beach scene. The cross-dressing might be a little weird for some, but then weird can lead to some very unique laughs, and the scene with the Spankologist has a gorgeous moment: watch her face after their first kiss. It glows in joy and memories of much younger days and it's actually very touching, made even better by being subtle and brief.

There's a lot of heart in this film, and I'm surprised more folks didn't feel it. I sure did, and think it's a minor masterpiece in its own way, especially if you know enough older people to enjoy the sly wit Ames and Pulcini/Berman share with us. I also thought the direction was pleasantly quiet and unshowy, but set up the best lines very nicely time and again. Plus, some of the scenes have something very warm and genuine about them, a real rarity in any film.

Maybe I'm nuts, but I loved almost everything about The Extra Man, and think that time will treat it very kindly. It's one of a kind, and Kevin Kline shows why he's one of the great comic actors still working, classic on the level of Peter Sellers.

If you don't mind a little pathos with your comedy, and like your laughs both broad and edgy, you might just find this to be a gem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Offbeat, funny, gentle, and interesting, November 19, 2014
By 
Kelly Allen (Wenatchee, Washington) - See all my reviews
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Such an interesting quirky little movie. Good actors with a story full of humanity and humor. It was not what I expected, which made it even more delightful. And, really, I would walk over hot coals for a Kevin Kline movie.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A special and teriffic movie., August 3, 2014
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This review is from: The Extra Man (DVD)
Just a wonderful movie that is well acted by everyone, Just a sensitive and heart warming story.
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The Extra Man
The Extra Man by Shari Springer Berman (DVD - 2010)
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