We live in a relatively small community, so not all movies make it to our local cinemas. Netflix is our source for most indie films. We tend to watch some rather unique films that way, and “The Extra Man” is one of them.
Kevin Kline stars as Henry Harrison, an eccentric writer and possible playwright who has made living without much income into an art form. He fancies himself an aristocrat, and in the evenings he occasionally escorts older women with money, who do not really need a gigolo, but rather an extra man to round out their dinner parties, or to accompany them to an event. We meet Henry through Louis Ives (played by Paul Dano), a young English teacher who is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants from life. Louis is socially awkward, and deals with this by imagining himself a wealthy character in a 1920s novel. (The movie is set somewhere between 1990 and 2005, in New York City.) Louis also has a fascination with women’s lingerie, which leads to experiments in crossdressing (though it turns out he’s really more of a transvestite).
What fascinates me about this movie is that all but three of the characters are outside the range of what might be called normative. In psychology, it is agreed there is no such thing as “normal,” but rather that people fall on a range with a bell-shaped curve in the middle, and most people fall within that normative bulge. Henry, Louis, their friend Gershon, and most of the other characters are definitely outliers (out of the normative range). But . . . they are doing fine. Yes, Henry is a rude, self-centered, pompous ass, but he’s figured out how he wants to live his life, and for the most part the only person he hurts is himself. Louis is a gentle soul, who has his quirks, but he is figuring out who he is and what he wants. Gershon (played by John C. Reilly) is also socially awkward, but quite comfortable with himself, and a very practical man. These people are all unique in some way . . . but they are themselves, and that is okay. Who says we have to all fit within certain parameters?
This is a strange movie, and not for everyone. It does have a satisfying ending. It is listed as a comedy, rated R for sexual content, runs 108 minutes, and was released in 2010. I don’t quite know how to rate it myself . . . on a 1 to 5 scale, perhaps a 4? Or 3.5? I did order a DVD of it, but . . . it is a strange movie. 🙂