Kevin Kline's the 'Man,' but comedy could use a bit 'Extra'

Kevin Kline is an aging escort of aged women.
Kevin Kline is an aging escort of aged women.
Posted: August 20, 2010

The extra man in "The Extra Man" turns out to be Paul Dano, playing the lead character but woefully overshadowed by a scene-stealing Kevin Kline.

Kline is at his eccentric, theatrical, comedic best here playing Henry Harrison, an escort for (very) elderly socialites.

Harrison, an apparent blowhard, claims to be a playwright who lost his way when his masterwork was stolen by a mysterious, jealous Belgian. He now devotes his creative energies to the art of attending to elderly and near-dead widows at social functions.

Their husbands and most of their male friends are dead, so they need an "extra man," schooled in the manners of a dying aristocracy, to accompany them to the opera and Russian Tea Room.

An extra man might defend the practice by saying "it's a living," except that it's not - the hard-up Harrison spray-paints his feet when he runs out of socks, and tools around Manhattan in an ancient Ford held together with clothes hangers.

He survives on the rent he charges to tolerant roommates like Louis (Dano), who emerges as a protege, and by spending the entire winter season inveigling widows for a summer invitation to a Palm Beach guesthouse.

We see Harrison through the eyes of Louis, which are sometimes decorated with mascara. Louis is a transvestite, a secret he keeps from the erratic and judgmental Henry, who has a history of volatile breakups with roommates.

Louis' private obsessions, colorful as they are, turn out to be puzzlingly dull, leading to flat-footed slapstick scenes and dramatic dead-ends.

The same holds for his pursuit of the woman (Katie Holmes) about whom he fantasizes at his day job.

The movie sags whenever Kline is offscreen, and when he's on screen, his presence and his character take over completely - something that the filmmakers, and certainly Dano, did not intend.

Produced by Anthony Bregman and Stephanie Davis, directed by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, written by Robert Pulcini, Jonathan Ames and Shari Springer Berman, music by Klaus Badelt, distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

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