Friday, December 3, 2010

Film Yap: The Extra Man

Most people are familiar with Jonathan Ames through his HBO show Bored to Death. This is where the fictional “Jonathan Ames” is a sad neurotic novelist who decides randomly to be a private detective in which he interacts with an assortment of eccentric people. In The Extra Man, Jonathan Ames is named “Louis Ives.” This time he is a sad neurotic playwright who decides to randomly move in with Kevin Kline’s Henry Harrison in which he interacts with an assortment of eccentric people.

The movie is even staler than the TV show. Paul Dano plays Louis Ives unfortunately. (This is how you get typecast.) As dull and miserable as Louis is, Kline’s Henry is supposed to make it all better. He does outrageous things like boast that his masterpiece was stolen by a hunchback and paints on his socks. He’s crazy because he enjoys Christmas balls.

Kline is a hysterical actor who has done wonders playing similar characters in A Fish Called Wanda and A Prairie Home Companion. He knows how to humanize the characters while still playing up the gravitas of their imagination. The movie let him down because there was no wonder in his situation. The wit isn’t there and the plot doesn’t provide any curiosity on how much of Henry’s world is true.

It’s barely even his world. Louis is still the main character and he is worthless as a protagonist. He has a crush on his co-worker Mary, who is played by Katie Holmes. Her character is an underwritten environmentalist who is too fake to be taken seriously. The only other thing Louis does in this movie besides sigh, gasp at Harry, and crush on Mary is fantasizing about wearing women’s clothing. He steals clothing and learns from prostitutes on how to be more feminine. This feels like it’s dramatically from a different film that would know how to handle this material better.

Things move at a slow pace and ends up looking like a novice sitcom writer. Everything culminates in an obvious and contrived manner but none of it really felt like it mattered that much. It’s not a horrible movie; it’s just a movie without anything to recommend. It’s a movie that’s completely forgettable and bland. I would have thought better from the team who made American Splendor.

The extras include a cool featurette about making the score of the film. There are two commentary tracks: One with Ames and Kline that has them discussing philosophy and trivia; the other with the filmmakers and a moderator. I love the idea of a moderator. This really helps guide the commentary towards something meaningful. The other things like deleted scenes and HDNet’s brief documentary about the film are not memorable.

Film: 2 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps

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