Film & TV

"The Extra Man" Review: Eccentric New Yorkers Without Indie Quirk

Delicate, gangly Louis Ives (Paul Dano) yearns to be both a Gatsby-era gentleman and a pretty young lady. Caught fondling a lacy brassiere, he's dismissed from his teaching post at a Princeton prep school and heads to New York with writerly aspirations, sharing an East 91st Street apartment with Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), a dye-job blowhard who makes his living as a walker to desiccated society matrons. Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman's adaptation of Jonathan Ames' 1998 novel affectionately honors its characters' idiosyncrasies, never diluting them into typical indie-comedy quirk. Kline flourishes in the role of a well-cured ham: When not escorting Upper East Side octogenarians, Henry devotes his energies to reviving his playwriting career, frenzied movement therapy in the living room, and lecturing Louis with advice that's "to the right of the pope." Kline's manic behavior is nicely balanced by Dano's awkward conflict about his disparate sources of pleasure, putting down his copy of Washington Square to seek out a tranny bar. Though their peculiarities are heightened, Henry and Louis aren't broadly drawn; going below the surface, the filmmakers and the cast (including a marvelous performance by Marian Seldes as an osteoporotic doyenne) successfully create the hardest characters to pull off: exotic yet recognizable New Yorkers.

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.