Review: The Extra Man DVD

The Extra Man DVD boxSTUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini | CAST: Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, Marian Seldes
RELEASE DATE: 11/16/10 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.98
commentary, deleted scenes, HDNet’s “A Look at The Extra Man
R | 108 minutes | Comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Extra Man is a New York movie in setting, mood, pace and, most notably, its makers’ and actors’ interest in capturing the tics and rhythms of the city. It’s that spirit that you remember when the independent film’s over, even more so than the pure New York-iness of the story.

The comedy is about two men — Louis Ives (Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood), a shy, unsure and sexually flustered young newbie to the city with literary aspirations a la Fitzgerald, and Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline, Definitely, Maybe), an energetic, late-middle-age eccentric who fancies himself a playwright but can only make ends meet (barely) by acting as an “extra man,” an escort to the wealthy older women of Manhattan society. The two men meet, become roommates and develop an odd and shaky mentor/protégée relationship. Along the way, the pair has encounters with, amongst others, a hirsute falsetto-voiced mechanic (John C. Reilly, Cyrus); a dewy, environmentally conscious vegan (Katie Holmes, Batman Begins); and a charmingly imperious Manhattan matron (NYC theater legend Marian Seldes).

Based on the 1998 novel by Jonathan Ames (creator of HBO’s Bored to Death), The Extra Man was written and directed by the team of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, whose last two films were the outstanding American Splendor and the not-so-great Nanny Diaries. Not to slot The Extra Man too neatly, but it can be fairly filed right between these filmmakers’ two previous efforts.

In Extra Man, we can feel Berman and Pulcini’s keen and affectionate eye for the odd mannerisms and off-kilter intelligence of the human animal (in this case, Manhattanites), which was what made their study of comic artist Harvey Pekar in American Splendor so engaging. In Extra Man, they also generally follow the traditional rules (read: conventional approach) of Hollywood storytelling that they had to obey for their adaptation of the best-selling chick memoir The Nanny Diaries. The straight-ahead narrative definitely works better in this newer movie, but that’s because the material is richer.

The cast embraces that story excellently. Dano is fine as the young man in the big city, though it’s Kline in all his operatic, mannered glory who’s most memorable as Henry Harrison, the kind of guy who’ll slap shoe polish on his ankles for a night on the town if he can’t get his hands on a pair of black socks. The supporting players (Mulholland Dr.‘s Dan Hedaya and Patti D’Arbanville of TV’s Rescue Me, among them) also wear their quirks well.

The DVD has the usual special features package — commentary, deleted scenes and making-of featurette — but that’s fitting for a film of this kind.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.