The Extra Man

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Kline: Outstanding. Movie: Bad.

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Starring: Kevin Kline, Paul Dano

By Robert Patrick

Weird and disconnected, despondent and confounded is the nature of Paul Dano’s ever-so-blue oeuvre. The actor’s face is always carved in muted stares; his eyes are less lifeless than the workshop of a taxidermist, and his lips are forever pursed in a disenchantment. Dano always seems to churn out a mope-driven independent opus at least twice a year. Lacking any sort of humanistic quality or moiré, the actor limply mats his hair down and drowsily recites his dialogue for each film. The quintessential Dano role would be playing that of Robert Smith or an ashtray. No matter, until the aforementioned role is tailored for the lanky protagonist, we’re stuck with these downtrodden roles where incertitude is the norm.

Essentially, as I had just mentioned, Paul Dano plays Paul Dano. In this particular film he is cast as a teacher at Princeton – already this movie is about as believable as a Marvel comic. Shortly after he is introduced, Dano is sent packing after the school finds him embroiled in a seemingly perverse situation. Lucky for him he manages to move to Manhattan in search of a roommate that ends of being, of all people in the world, a most operatic gentleman of the strangest kind, named Henry Harrison (alliteration is the key to a debonair persona). Henry is curt – though he sometimes uses flowery language that Robert Frost wouldn’t dare use – and fancies himself as a ladies man. Kevin Kline is marvelously hilarious in his turn as the clueless social escort. Kline wraps himself up in dapper clothing, dances madly to blaring music, and uses his blunt disapproval of people to bludgeon them with unforgiving quips.

How good is Kline? The man is fantastic enough in this movie for me to tell you to see the thing, though the rest of the flick is about as fun to watch as a public execution or a seven hour extended cut of “The Spirit”. Kline has some dialogue in here, said with the accented baritone howl of Ron Burgundy, that had me thinking it was the best comedic performance of the year – and I still do. The manic playwright and mercurial socialite has the naiveté of a seven-year old, but that’s what makes his inspired diatribes so endearing. The rest of the film is essentially about Dano feeling empty inside, which makes me feel empty inside, until Kline appears again, scotch in paw, then everything is better again.

I want you to see this…performance. I cant say I want you to see this movie, because, if I’m being perfectly honest, you really don’t want to. Dano’s character moodily pouts, longs for affection with teary-eyed outbursts of agony, and creepily skulks about stealing women’s lingerie. No relatable qualities. No reason to invest in his character. No reason to believe that this isn’t a sequel to “Gigantic” or a prequel to “The Good Heart”. No, there’s absolutely no reason for me to tell you to watch this entire film. Fast-forward through the Dano bits to see Kline’s exanimate portrayal of a talc-covered poet (yeah, fast-forwarding is sacrilegious and impossible during a theatre experience, but you’re allowed to in this situation).

Yeah, there is no possible audience for “The Extra Man”. So eccentric and coarse are the storylines that, even when you can sense the film’s brighter moments, there is still an indescribable awning over the film that blocks any would be flourishes of light. Even with John C. Reilly looking like a Neanderthal and Joey in the wings, this movie is strictly Kline’s…and he has no movie to really star in. What a shame.

Movie rating: 1/5
Kline rating: 5/5

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Author: Rob Patrick

A member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, Rob created Cinema Spartan after he stepped down as the editor of a weekly. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. He has also introduced films with the Pacific Arts Movement. He co-owns two dire wolves, Buckley and Ruffin. At any given time, he can tell you superfluous hockey statistics. He is the chancellor of Tapatio, an advocate of iced tea, and an owner of at least 70 pairs of Vans.

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