Once a week for my “This Week in Netflix” post, I pick a movie at random from my Netflix Instant Queue. Playinig Netflix Movie Russian Roulette, while fun, can be a very dangerous thing to do. You are bound to stumble across some hidden gems that you would have otherwise gone unnoticed. At the same time though, you can easily find something that doesn’t quite fit your fancy. That happened to me this week when I randomly encountered The Extra Man.
I would not call The Extra Man a bad movie; it was just a little bit too weird and disjointed for me (which is saying a lot if you have seen some of the movies I’ve reviewed from Netflix that I enjoyed). Starring Paul Dano, Kevin Kline, John C. Riley and Katie Holmes, the movie is basically about a bunch of odd people living in Manhattan. After an embarrassing incident causes Louis Ives (Paul Dano) to be fired from teaching at Princeton, he moves to Manhattan to make his living writing. Moving in with washed-up writer Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) Louis finds a job at a local newspaper where he meets, works with and falls in love with Mary Powell (Katie Holmes). Henry and Louis live above Henry’s old roommate, the quiet and bearded Gershon Gruen (John C. Reilly) who, when he speaks, sounds just like a muppet. The three manage to form an odd friendship but the movie really follows Louis as he tried to fit into his new life while Henry takes him under his wing.
Now, the film’s plot may seem normal enough but it is truly one of the oddest films I have ever seen him my life. Throughout the film, Louis is plagued with a cross dressing fascination that his mind is completely at odds with. His embarrassment with the fascination keeps him from fulfilling it but his obsession with it makes it impossible for him to forget it. Louis problems don’t stop there while he often imagines a deep voiced narrator narrating his life and subsequently the film.
The moment Louis meets Henry Harrison he develops an intense need to earn the man’s friendship, something that is difficult to do. A writer by trade, Henry believes his first real play to have been stolen by a former roommate and has not written anything of consequence since. Believing that sex should be control and that writer’s should be raised in sexless all male environments, Henry spends his time escorting around a rich, 92 year old woman. Henry’s mind seems to be constantly scrambled as his moods come out of nowhere and he is never shy to speak his mind. A fascinating but supremely flawed character, Henry manages to make life very difficult for the mentally stressed Louis, especially with his inability to display friendship.
I give this film a 5 out of 10, mainly because I found it to be spastic and disjointed. The acting was outstanding, which I gave it a 5 instead of something lower. Paul Dano steals a number of scenes and Kevin Kline brought to life a character unlike any I’ve seen before. While I could have done without Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly added a much needed dose of comedy to the film, if only for the second half. The film brings up a number of interesting points about friendship and class society but a tighter, more focused story could have helped the film come together better. The film, as it states itself, is best summed up by Henry Harrison’s repeated line before better, “so here we are, where are we?”