Movies Not to See: ‘The Extra Man’

This weekend, I caught an advanced screening of a new alleged comedy called ‘The Extra Man’, as part of the Talk Cinema series (which I generally recommend, if there’s a branch in your area). The film stars Kevin Kline as a “Walker,” an older gentleman who mooches off wealthy women in exchange for escorting them to social engagements. In the story, he takes a desperately introverted young man (Paul Dano) under his wing and tries to teach him the rules of the game. The premise sounds kind of clever, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the movie is just dreadful.

Perhaps most disappointing is the amount of talent behind it. In addition to the leads, supporting roles are played by John C. Reilly (as the wacky neighbor), Dan Hedaya (as a competing Walker), and Katie Holmes (as the object of Dano’s desire). The film is based on a novel by Jonathan Ames, creator of the HBO series ‘Bored to Death’. It’s directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, who had previously collaborated on the excellent ‘American Splendor’. I like all of those things (save perhaps for Holmes). You’d think this group of people could make something interesting.

The problem is that the film’s tone is just all wrong. After ‘American Splendor’, Berman and Pulcini made the tedious and bland Scarlett Johansson vehicle ‘The Nannie Diaries’. At some point after that, they were apparently introduced to the works of Wes Anderson (‘Rushmore’, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’, etc.). ‘Extra Man’ tries desperately to ape Anderson’s cinematic style and dry wit, but fails miserably. The characters are overloaded with faux-“quirky” tics, which the actors have been directed to play to the rafters. Kline is a gifted comedian; in another movie, his eccentric nutjob might have been funny. But here, every single scene and every single line of dialogue from every single character is far too forced and overbearing. And poor John C. Reilly. I’ve liked him in plenty of other movies. Honestly, he ought to turn in his SAG card after this one. The character is an idiotic one-joke sitcom cliché dragged out much too long. He’s atrocious. Simply atrocious. I hated every single minute of this movie.

In the discussion afterwards, reaction from the (predominantly older) audience was more lenient on the film than I was. Still, even those that liked it didn’t sound all that enthusiastic about it. According to IMDb, Magnolia Pictures has distribution rights to the picture. It doesn’t appear that they’ve scheduled a release date yet. If they do, there’s no reason to waste your time or money on this. I wish I hadn’t.


  1. Dick Ward

    You know, even after that scathing review, I can’t help but want to check this out. ‘Bored to Death’ is easily one of my favorite shows and I absolutely love John C. Riley.

    It reminds me of ‘The Grand.’ Great talent, boring movie.

  2. Wow, really? I caught this movie at Sundance, and I’ve got to say Josh I respectfully disagree with you on all fronts. I loved this quirky film, and Klein’s performance is hilarious. Paul Dano, acting like he’s stuck in the 20’s is fantastic.

    To add a counter-point I would say this film is definitely worth your money, when/if it comes out.

    • Josh Zyber

      I think there’s something about the atmosphere at Sundance that makes mediocre and lousy movies seem much better than they really are. I can’t remember the last time I found a Sundance audience favorite even remotely watchable.

      Must be the thin air at that elevation. 🙂

      • Yeah ‘Memento,’ ‘500 Days of Summer,’ ‘Moon,’ ‘In Bruges,’ and ‘An Education’ (just to name a few) really stunk… 😉

        • Josh Zyber

          I was thinking more along the lines of The Spitfire Grill, Napolean Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, Hamlet 2, Thumbsucker, The Wackness, etc. This one is just as insufferable as those.

          • Not saying every single movie up there is a gem, there were a few I hated this past year, but that’s the nature of the beast at festivals. I’m just saying ‘The Extra Man’ wasn’t one I hated, it was one I quite enjoyed (same with ‘Little Miss Sunshine.’)

          • Josh Zyber

            Well, I didn’t HATE Little Miss Sunshine. I just found it far too formulaic and calculated an audience-pleaser. But Extra Man… I haven’t had a reaction this visceral against a movie in a long time. I honestly did not enjoy one single scene, one single line of dialogue, not one single second of the film. I found all the characters simply hateful.

          • The Clintidote

            Josh: “I haven’t had a reaction this visceral against a movie in a long time. I honestly did not enjoy one single scene, one single line of dialogue, not one single second of the film. I found all the characters simply hateful.”

            Wow; strong stuff. Reminds me of me after exiting (mostly well before the credits) Eraserhead, Ordinary People (I wanted all of them to die horribly by the second act; didn’t happen, so I bailed out), Moulin Rouge and Notorious C.H.O. Total crap, all.

  3. Ian Whitcombe

    Most of the movies you mentioned Aaron were shown across the internation festival circuit, it’s usually the ones that are Sundance-exclusive that are the most questionable.

    • But, all I mentioned premiered at Sundance (save ‘Memento’) and were then picked up by the festival circuit. A lot of films, not just the big names, get picked up and move along the festival circuit after Sundance.

      Before they were picked up by other festivals they were all indeed Sundance exclusives.

  4. Rob

    How you felt about ‘The Extra Man’ is exactly how I felt after watching ‘500 Days Of Summer.’

    But I don’t know if we can blame the actors here. Maybe there was genuine artistry on the set, but the directors selected all the “quirky” takes during editing.

  5. Matt O.

    Funny you mention the directors aping Wes Anderson b/c before I read the article, I thought of The Royal Tenebaums based on the picture. Kline looks very Bill Murray-esque.