27 June 2010

Review: The Extra Man

Shortly after piquedly posting the trailer to the absurdist comedy The Extra Man on this blog this evening, I eagerly took the opportunity to watch the film itself On Demand - a great service to impulses and sales. While endeared - no doubt - to the film's quaint characters, who much more closely resemble caricatures (perhaps allegorical) than just characters alone, I became moreover disappointed by the film as a work whole, while I sat watching it, and was often befuddled often by the circuitous and tangential routes that the awfully patchy quilt of a film agglomeratively assembled. The protagonist, a rightly "milquetoast" waif of a twenty-something played tremorously by Mr. Paul Dano, was a feeble device, sillily pushed along into his zany situations by the pen of a hypothetical writer - that is, a screenwriter who apparently rather enjoys stitching together fumbling little ecosystems of humanity into a collage of the uncertain and the disenfranchised: A boy in the position of a man takes on the nagging inklings of a woman while he is residing with an underclass gigolo in a seedy Manhattan apartment for which this boy pays by trading his days for 'green' points to the devotion of a leafy and over-dramatic "activist" who would rather seek approval from her boyfriend than redirect her passions to the cliché-pasttimes that she does espouse, like guitar-based solo songwriting, guilt-promoting animal-activism, and indirect external flirtationism. (How does one make that tagline stick any shorter?) Did I mention that John C. Reilly plays a woolly chronic-masturbator who speaks in an abnormally high register but sings waltzes in a perfect tenor? Indeed, though more often than not the absurdist humor in The Extra Man worked, The Extra Man itself failed to hit a high comedic mark.
Such a review is short change perhaps of an otherwise decently delightful film, corner-stoned by the handsome performance by Mr. Kevin Kline, who does that for which he may be best known and earns again plaudits for doing it. Truly he has not been as good, in many years. Ms. Katie Holmes, however, a long way from her Pieces of April (2003) days, makes for an eery counterpoint in her vaguely transparent restoration of the ingénue's role: a poppy, over-lifted, and bewildering counter-culture-ette named (plainly) Mary. Limp between these distracting extremes, Mr. Dano supports himself until the script's all-too-nice yet still incomplete closure: rice at a wedding.

Grade: C+, a bon homme fine for a night on the town, when you can sneak in a little bubbly to springboard the evening. (With this film On Demand, doing so shouldn't be a problem.)

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