Thursday, April 22, 2010

IFFB 2010 opening night: THE EXTRA MAN

Thumbs up! For lots of laughs from looks at the lives of eccentric characters brought to life by a brilliant cast.
Based on a novel of the same name that I'm going to have to track down, THE EXTRA MAN is a hilarious ensemble of wonky character studies. It's a little light on plot and growth, but you don't miss it as the performances and personalities consistently charm and entertain. Center stage for most of the film are Kevin Kline as Henry Harrison, Extra Man, gentleman escort to aging moneyed Manhattan society dames, and Paul Dano, Louis Ives, his young newly-arrived-in-NYC flatmate and unwitting apprentice in all things. HH's philosophies seem to be founded on patriarchal order, a belief that the feminine ideal originates somewhere in Russia, and working the angles of any and all relationships in the pursuit of comfort and pleasure. Meanwhile, young Louis takes baby steps in an effort to confront his latent potential kinks and sexuality, all the while hiding any sign of them from his new roommate, who boasts that the Pope is a little liberal for his tastes. About halfway thru the film, the duo is made a trio with the addition of an amazing John C. Reilly as HH's mechanic friend, Gershon. I can say no more about him, as you really must see the film to take in the wonder of Gershon.

Dan Hedaya appears as a rival don't-use-the-word-gigolo of Harrison's, and it's a small treat. I wish we got more of him.

Was nice seeing Katie Holmes on the big screen again, but sad to say, I'm really not feeling her bright and shiny ability anymore. I don't remember much of PIECES OF APRIL now, but I do remember liking her in it. Was that her, peaking? She didn't have a lot to do in it, but I think she phoned in BATMAN, and I can't remember seeing her in anything since then. Oh, I missed THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, she was in that, right? Well, I hope she makes me eat my words and picks a good role or roles soon.

Oh, Joey. *sigh*

Kevin Kline appeared after the screening to accept an IFFB career achievement award.He was charming and funny and somehow dashing, even when making like his award trophy-sculpture was a toy rocket ship (was it? =). Co-director Robert Pulcini joined Kline on stage a lively audience Q&A, including the penultimate question of the evening, channeled from a seventh grader who waited to ask Kline about his loves of Shakespeare at a high school drama club appearance years ago but was unable to ask (just cuz they'd run of time, not cuz of some, like, medical condition, or catastrophic giant monster attack). His older brother stepped up to the mic this evening to relate the dramatic story and finally ask the question.

I'm gonna rattle off some memorable film highlights now, so beware, here be SPOILERS!

Kline's high-falootin Harrison is a wonderfully blustery, theatrical, chauvinistic, and cantankerous aging "$hit my dad says" kind of man. Some of his deliveries are pure delight. I love "There's a DWARF in that painting!" and the order to "STOP!" directed at a diner waitress, right after his commentary on how his disappointed/disapproving attitude makes him so appealing to people as a father figure.

The scene in which Dano's Ives reveals to Holmes's Mary that he loves the American literature of the 20s so much that he has taken to hearing the voice of a narrator in the style of those times describing and commenting on his every move, is pretty perfect.

Reilly makes a few brief and silent appearances in the first half of the film, not saying a word until after that. He's like a shaggy Klingon, quite ominous. The film does a great job of establishing the quirkiness of its world and characters, creating a context that was JUST right for Reilly to pull off his high-talking Gershon when he finally lets him loose on screen.

The story, as such, doesn't offer much in the way of closure, but I suggest (and kind of expected) an easy fix, tired, perhaps, but with the right content, effective and winning—populate the end credits with snapshots from the trio's misadventures in Russia, and don't forget the $4 champagne.

When Kline was presented with his award, I couldn't help but hear Gershon, "I've got the vibrator!"
If I was the kind of person who asked questions, I would've asked how many takes it took to get the dog/flea rubbing shot right. =)

Thanks to JB and BW for tag-teaming as my spotters for the evening! =)
This is NOT how the theater looked at showtime. I spaced on getting a photo until hours after the screening. D'oh!

Keep on keepin on~

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