Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Extra Man

I wanted to post a few thoughts on last night's IFF Boston screening. First off, I can't remember the last time I went into a film knowing nothing about it. Which was a little bizarre, a bit of a nice change of pace, and possibly why I wasn't completely into it (more on that in a minute).

I think being in last night's audience was the best way to see the film. They were boisterous and appreciative. Had I seen the film on DVD, I might have reviewed it as "didn't like it", but being surrounded by so many people laughing has a way of improving something.

The film is about a young man (Paul Dano) who moves to New York and moves in with an eccentric older gentleman (Kevin Kline). They are both writers and the elder one survives by being an escort, or extra man, to the grand dames of the city. Pretty much every character in the movie is eccentric in some way, and how much you like the film will depend on how amusing you find them. There isn't really much of a plot. It's more of a series of vignettes plucked from the book. (Apparently, the book is somewhat autobiographical, which I discovered at the Q&A and which made the film more interesting in retrospect).

I think if I had gone into the film thinking that it was P.G. Wodehouse-esque (Wodehouse-light?) I might have enjoyed it more. There were certainly a number of times I was laughing, but I was never really enthralled. As a case in point, John C. Reilly pops up at one point with some intereting mannerisms. It was fun to see with a cinephile crowd because everyone was laughing at John C. Reilly playing off of his former, seriously artsy roles. But if you're thinking about the actor, then you aren't entirely engaged with the story. There's also some really terrible voice-over narration. It gets explained about half-way through the film, but it is pretty off-putting.

Overall, I thought it was meh. Kevin Kline was good. It just would have been nice to feel like the movie went somewhere, rather than being a collection of short stories.

I will say, though, that Kevin Kline was terrific and very charming during the Q&A afterward. And it was a lot of fun to get to see him in person.

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