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Anthony M. Bertram
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The twisted, sexually offbeat memoir by author Jonathan Ames becomes this original adaptation about the sexual peccadilloes of the writer (playing himself) as he experiences masculinity ... See full summary »
Louis, a young teacher enamored of the age of F. Scott Fitzgerald, loses his job when he's caught trying on a bra he finds in a campus office. He decides to go to New York City to find himself and to be a writer. He answers an ad for a housemate placed by the eccentric and opinionated Henry Harrison; an odd-couple relationship starts. Louis gets a job selling advertising for a green magazine and fancies Mary, a co-worker. He meets Henry's neighbor, the hirsute Gershon, and Henry offers Paul schooling in the gentleman's world of being an "extra man" - a hired companion, a gigolo - for older women. Can Louis sort out these varied worlds as well as his own expectations? Written by
Jonathan Ames, a writer of eccentric novels, penned the book on which this bizarre film is based. His story of confused identities and searching for a workable concept of self was adapted for the screen by Ames with help from co-directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman. It is a confusing tale to watch but has moments of comedic insight and a cat of well- known actors that help to make the film entertaining if a bit of fluff.
We meet English teacher Louis Ives (Paul Dano) after a prelude of daydreaming the three factors that characterize Louis - his obsession with classic literature of the 1920s, his untrained perception of how to relate to people ('awkward' would be a kind term), and his penchant for fantasizing about cross dressing. He is dismissed from his school 'due to budget cuts' (read 'having been discovered trying on a bra and being caught by the headmaster'), yet his inappropriate response is one of glee at having been given the opportunity to move to Manhattan to become a writer.
Once in New York City without connections, he answers an ad for an inexpensive apartment sharing the ad having been submitted by one very strange Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), an older down on his heels writer and playwright who supports himself teaching college level literature and who considers himself an aristocrat, serving as an 'escort' for older wealthy women. After an uncomfortable interview Henry consents to allow Louis to be his roommate: after weighing his options Louis accepts the room in the flea infested filthy apartment and begins trying to get to know the secretive and zany Henry.
Henry provides companionship for one Vivian (Marion Seldes) and eventually Louis is brought in as an 'extra man' to provide companionship for one of Vivian's friends (Celia Watson). In the meantime Louis finds work as a telephone salesman for a Green magazine, meets the pretty but unavailable Mary (Katie Holmes), begins to encounter Henry's entourage of loonies such as Henry's bearded and dirty repairman Gershon (John C. Reilly), and gives in to his urge to learn about cross-dressing by visiting a 'teacher ' and finally a make-over artist who places him in the role of a 'woman'. Louis' experience with transvestism fails and alienates Henry for a brief time. But what this comedic episode results in is Louis' discovery of what is important friends and family and Henry and his entourage supply that and the changes this brings in all the characters draws the film to a close.
With a cast such as this we find ourselves wanting to connect with each character bizarre though they all are and to a degree this occurs. But the script is spotty and the direction is bumpy and in many ways it feels as though the film simply never gets off the ground. Good moments: no after taste to savor.
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