Last night I went to a press screening of Magnolia Pictures' The Extra Man, a strange and poignant and deeply funny film by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, based on the novel by Jonathan Ames. It stars one of my favorite actors, Paul Dano, as Louis Ives, a quirky young ex-teacher who has just traveled to New York to find himself, accompanied by the F. Scott Fitzgerald-like third-person voice he imagines constantly narrating his life. He takes a room in the apartment of the larger-than-life Henry Harrison (a phenomenal Kevin Kline), a playwright and socialite who promises to take Louis under his wing and show him the ways of a gentleman in the city.
The movie largely plays with the idea of characters seeming out of sync with their time and place, as Harrison strives to maintain a lavish lifestyle despite his flea infestation and rusty Buick, precariously on its last legs. Harrison's unapologetically backwards social views provide stark contrast to the protests and social activism at Louis's new employer, an environmental magazine where Louis meets Mary (Katie Holmes), an enthusiastic if impressionable green convert whose dislikability as a character is played with satisfying subtlety.
Torn between his shy, withheld nature and lurking desires, between a gentlemanly 1920's aesthetic and what a modern-day New York has to offer him, Louis is played by Paul Dano with incredible vulnerability and passion.
John C. Reilly has a delightful backing role as Gershon, Harrison and Louis's deeply eccentric neighbor. The film's complete effect is part Woody Allen and part Wes Anderson: bewildering, comically tragic and sort of otherworldly.
The Extra Man will be released July 30.