Realism and fantasy collide in Jonathan Lethem's genre-bending coming-of-age story, which follows two estranged brothers as they try to leave New York City for a new life in California only... See full summary »
Anthony M. Bertram
Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Sensing trouble in his own life, Nick wrestles with the notion of reaching out yet again to his dad.
A mattress salesman finds his plan to adopt a Chinese baby augmented by the arrival of a young woman, who comes into his workplace, falls asleep on one of the beds, and starts to affect his life upon waking up.
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
Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) is "The Extra Man", but to him, he's an "essential man". He seems to live in a time and class that he doesn't physically occupy. Louis Ives (Paul Dano) would really just like to be a character in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. These characteristics were so intriguing at the beginning of the film because there are a lot of thoughtful and interesting directions to take it.
They make a great pairing, except for the fact that Henry isn't just homophobic, but proudly and defiantly, extremely homophobic, and Louis is proudly and completely confused. And neither of them understand the nature of their friendship. When the film chooses to explore Louis' inner transvestite and getting deeper into Henry's obsession as the essential man, everything just gets weird.
"The Extra Man" is an extremely intelligent film. There was clearly a lot of effort put into the writing, the characters, the acting and the making of this film, but the weird directions it took were too much for me. I want to recommend it to those who like smart, philosophical, but weird, independent films. Just look out for some "sexually deviant behaviour".
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