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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.23.10] movie review comedy

Year: 2010
Directors: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Writers: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 8 out of 10

Kevin Kline plays Henry Harrison, a down at heel, eccentric writer turned 'Extra Man' to elderly society ladies. For the price of a good dinner and some entertainment, he will provide conversation and companionship. Having spent his entire inheritance on a wild ten-year trip to Europe he now lives in a little Manhattan apartment and rents out his spare room, secretly dancing in the mornings and sharing an uneasy friendship with his neighbour, Gershon (John C Reilly). Paul Dano is a prep school English teacher called Louis Ives who, after being caught trying on a bra by his colleagues, has been ushered from his job and decides to give New York a try, possibly because in NY there might be people who understand why he tried on a bra, and liked it. He needs a room, Henry needs a tenant.

After getting the tour, "Sorry it's all rather barracks!”, Dano is given the rules: no women and no watching Henry's dancing, "I cannot be seen dancing!". Henry inhabits a fantasy world where he is a brilliant society gentleman, lover of opera and reader (and critic) of the greats; Joyce, Hemmingway, Salinger; while the sad reality is that when his socks get frayed he simply goes without and uses a bit of boot polish, "Nobody notices." Louis is baffled but excited to meet this larger than life character, taking the opportunity to get some lessons in how a gentleman can get by on a budget and still enjoy the good things in life. Henry is a modern day Lord Henry with a very short fuse, Oscar 'The Grouch' Wilde if you will, but certainly no homosexual as he's quick to point out to anyone who'll listen. As a writer his work is strangely absent although he claims, "My magnum opus was stolen, by a Swiss hunchback!"

As Louis settles in to life living with Henry he finds a job working for a woman's magazine and here he meets Mary (Katie Holmes), a free spirited modern gal with whom he becomes obsessed, taking every opportunity to try and chat her up. Holmes lives outside of Henry's strange, 1920's world and acts as a reminder of the banality and soullessness of modern times. She's the kind of girl who'll wear hair beads to a reggae concert but be in bed by mid-night and have her hair tied up a bun for the office the next day.

Kline's performance here is epic, like Richard E. Grant in 'Withnail... and I', every line, mannerism and affectation is hilariously on target, and the result is a sheer joy to watch. The supporting cast are excellent with Dano's bashful transvestite / literature nerd giving the actor another chance to show us how it's done, and Reilly's unbelievably strange neighbour standing as one his best comic roles to date (he sounds exactly like Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite, exactly). Holmes is Holmes, usually the weak link in any film she stars in, here she's perfectly fine and I didn't even notice it was her until the last reel, which I guess is good as she's not really an actress so much a talking prop and wife of a lunatic movie star.

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini have worked on eccentric characters before when they made the great Harvey Pekar portrait 'American Splendor' back in 2003, and this adaptation of the Jonathan Ames novel stands along side that film as an offbeat but extremely fun and wonderfully acted piece of work. I cannot wait to see it again.

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