Kevin Kline gives a wonderful performance in The Extra Man. That was to be expected. Unfortunately, his skills are wasted in one of the most disappointing films of the year.
About halfway through what feels like an interminable movie, two of the characters echoed my thoughts. Louis (Paul Dano) asks his quasi-mentor Harry (Kline), "Is it so wrong to be interested in you?" Without a thought, Harry replies, "Of course. I'm not remotely interested in you."
And that was pretty much how I felt when the ending credits rolled.
Two hours earlier when the movie began, The Extra Man had everything going for it. First, it has an excellent cast: Kline, Dano, John C. Reilly, Katie Holmes and legendary stage actress Marian Seldes.
Kline's Harry is a hoot. Living just this side of poverty, he spends late nights dancing solo to classical music. His movements are one part Catherine Graham, three parts psychedelic chicken. Harry is a would-be playwright who's more of a must-be opportunist. He's a social-climbing escort but quick to say he's not a gigolo.
"I'm an extra man," Harry explains. "Although, I would argue that I'm much more than extra. I'm essential. Women usually outlive their husbands, so there's always room for an extra man at the table. What I bring is the complete package: wit, intelligence, an uncommon joie de vivre." But as an audience, we can only hope.
For some crazy reason, directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (it took two directors to helm this mess?) don't trust their central characters enough. Instead they introduce a ham-fisted plot centered on cross-dressing. It turns out that Louis, in his self-exploration, would prefer to explore that self in a bra and nightgown. And crime of crimes, they waste Reilly, who usually gins up any comedy he's in. Here he plays an inner-city grizzly of a man who speaks in a falsetto. The gimmick is good for a laugh or two but very quickly wears thin.
And rarely-seen Katie Holmes' Mary, who is Louis' workmate, is not a catalyst to the plot but rather a passerby. There's more electricity in a 9-volt battery than between Holmes and Dano.
The biggest heartbreak is Kline's Harry. He wanders through The Extra Man as if he was in search of a better movie. I'm guessing that Kline was attracted to the project because Harry is such a comically rich character. It's just too bad Kline couldn't have played every other role in the movie, written the script, directed the film and scored the music. The soundtrack is as confused as the plot. One moment, it's thumping rhythm and blues, the next it's sappy pop.
Instead of whimsical, quirky or even eccentric, The Extra Man is smug, vulgar and disappointing, but in spite of all of its failings, there is one memorably charming moment in The Extra Man. On a wintery New York beach, Reilly sings "Lara's Theme (Somewhere My Love)," as Kline teaches Dano how to waltz. The whole thing lasts about 20 seconds. Too bad it didn't last the length of the movie.