Welcome to the Saturday Morning Media Review,
in which I review a movie or television show that I've recently seen.
The Extra Man (2010)
Paul Dano redeems himself after his monochromatic performance in Little Miss Sunshine (2006) in this comedic gem based on author-raconteur Jonathan Ames’ novel of the same name. Ames continues to indulge his penchant for perversion as he recounts the lives of men who cannot control their sexual impulses. In all of his personal and fictional works, highly depraved individuals are surprisingly the most capable of expressing humanity and tenderness towards the most vulnerable members of society. Considering that most of his stories are set in New York City, a locale that tends to attract the self-obsessed, this is no mean feat.
After a “crippling brassiere incident,” Louis Ives (Dano) is fired from his job teaching English at a fancy Princeton prep school. He decides it’s the perfect time to move to Manhattan, where he can pursue his dream of becoming a writer. He rents a small room from one Henry H. Harrison (Kevin Kline), a flamboyant man who wages a daily war against modernity. He survives by serving as an “extra” man for wealthy, lonely older women. He’s not a male escort, he is quick to point out, but simply filling in the gap left by deceased husbands. His job is more about gallantly keeping the women company rather than providing sexual gratification. Ives delves deeper into his personal perversions as his preoccupation with women’s lingerie continues to dog him; he frequents a dominatrix to receive absolution through spanking, although Harrison makes it abundantly clear that he abhors even the mere allusion to sex. The movie reaches a head when Harrison returns from a trip to Palm Beach and finds Ives grotesquely dressed as a woman. Harrison forgives Ives for his transgressions, perhaps because he has grown so attached to his young protégé. For his part, Ives realizes that fulfillment does not lie in dressing as a woman but instead seizing life as a man. Also starring John C. Reilly as the hairy but helpful neighbor Gershon and the understated Katie Holmes as Ives’ luminescent co-worker Mary.