The Essential Man

This is a review of the new flick The Extra Man, directed and adapted by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, from the novel by Jonathan Ames.

In the new indie flick The Extra Man, there is a recurring joke that Mr. Kevin Kline is not simply an ‘extra man’ (read: escort), but, an ‘essential man’.  Rarely has a film been so right.  And rarely has a film so wasted so delicious a performance.

I hesitate to recommend this disappointing, sometimes unfocused and incoherent picture (from the wife-and-husband team behind the marvelous American Splendor, so the hopes were high), but has Kevin Kline ever been bad?  And here he has a memorable role to sink his teeth in, and oh boy does he!  (Even more so than his underrated, scene-stealing turn in Definitely, Maybe.)

But the flick doesn’t quite know what to do with him.  It follows random tangents to non-payoffs, and never really ties together its disparate threads (Katie Holmes and Paul Dano love interest storyline, anyone?!).  I won’t waste your time recapping the plot, so as it it, but let’s look at Kline’s work over the years, shall we?  Since for most people A Prairie Home Companion remains a mixed bag (for me it was a win, due in no small part to Kline’s role, that reminded me outside of Mr. Steve Martin, no one does faux-intelligence better), you have to go back to, say, ’97 to find two good movies in a row (The Ice Storm, In & Out) and how can the truly underrated Dave be as old ’93?

Now, I applaud his willingness to take risks (Hamlet and the also-underrated Soapdish within two years of each other, and lots of early Lawrence Kasdan), but compare the first half of his career with the latter half, and either the movies are getting worse, or we’re glad he’s doing more stage work–  or both.

We’ll always have A Fish Called Wanda.  As for The Extra Man, not even Mr. K. Kline (truly one of the all-time great actors of his generation) can save this stinker.

I did see this in-theaters flick at-home, on-demand–  a brave new indie “movie-going” world!

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