Right because I’ve (somewhat unsurprisingly) fallen behind, I’m going to do what I promised and keep this short and sweet.
The Extra Man stars Paul Dano as a mild mannered young man who, through tenuous circumstance, becomes acquainted an older curmudgeonly gentleman played by Kevin Kline. Sound familiar? From a synopsis point of view this film reads extremely similar to yesterday’s The Good Heart (albeit with the inclusion of male escorts) and I’ve read a few things comparing the character relationships between the two movies which all seem to criticise the fact that Paul Dano doesn’t do anything different in either. I can’t help but feel the need to disagree in this case, certainly I can see the grounds on which the argument is based but it feels to me somewhat akin to criticising Harrison Ford for playing Han Solo and Indiana Jones too similar because they’re both wisecracking adventurers – I’m doubtful that these criticisms would have been made if these films had been made slightly further apart; perhaps that’s a poor choice of roles on Dano’s part, but it didn’t really concern me all too much even having seen both films a day apart. Although he’s of mild mannered disposition in both, he feels much more three dimensional in this effort and there’s definitely more of a conflicted element about him, even if we learn this slightly more through the narration than his performance.
Speaking of which the narration is an interesting element, partially because of its infrequency, leading it to become more of a “voice of exposition” whenever whatever we’re supposed to know at that point hasn’t come across obviously enough. Quite aside from rambling about Paul Dano and the merits of narration, there are certainly other performances which deserve mentions, particularly that of Kevin Kline who absolutely steals any scene he is in. This is largely thanks to the wonderfully offensive dialogue he is given but kudos needs to be paid to him nonetheless for making even the most criminally outdated statements seem believable. John C Reilly is also on hand to provide further comic relief but the trait which draws the laughs from his character seems well, a bit too ridiculous to be credible. I could say something here abut Katie Holmes’ role but I can’t be bothered and that should give you some indication as to its merit.
Despite its comedic moments (which are undoubtedly where The Extra Man shines), interesting performances and the fanciful twenties/thirties gentlemanly aesthetic which fits quite pleasingly with modern day New York, something about this movie inherently disappointed me; I had a fun time whilst watching it and I certainly indulged in my fair share of the laughs, (along with the rest of the audience who appeared to be having a great time) but as has been the common theme this week, it was mostly a hollow experience and after the credits had rolled I was left wanting. The narrative swings from comedic to dramatic extremes with no real substance behind the action, even missing some of the better opportunities it gives itself to be involving, and by the end of the film I felt as though I’d just watched ninety minutes of people moving around having various interactions – it doesn’t really feel like all too much has changed for any of the characters, except for one discovering that cross dressing really isn’t his thing.
The above is compounded by the fact it ends rather abruptly at an event we really have no investment in, with the repetition of a phrase that has somewhat forcibly been peppered throughout the dialogue; almost as though ending on this phrase provides some kind of profound point of reflection that will force the audience to think once they’ve left the theatre (forcing people to think?! How offensive!). Unfortunately though, it felt like a cheap way to draw a story to a close that didn’t really know where to finish.