The Extra Man Shari Springer Bergman and Robert Pulcini

The Extra Man Shari Springer Bergman and Robert Pulcini
Jonathan Ames should require little or no introduction. He is one of the three "New York Jonathans," the other two being (in order of literary prestige) Franzen and Lethem. He is the joker of this pack, shamelessly self-disclosing hang-ups that range from irritable bowel syndrome to tranny-chasing. He's been called "the gayest straight writer in America." In addition to his several acclaimed books of fiction and essays, he produces and writes hilarious HBO show Bored to Death. With The Extra Man, Ames has adapted his excellent novel of the same name. Paul Dano channels the soft-voiced Ames persona to perfection, offering an amusing alternative to the Jason Schwartzman version on Bored to Death. His character, Louis Ives, desires to be Jay Gatsby, by way of Henry James's Washington Square. He's an over-sensitive literary man living in a post-literary world. Ives finds his ideal counterpart upon moving in with a debonair eccentric played by Kevin Kline. Kline's dapper "extra man" (an escort in the tamest sense of the word) doesn't offer sex, just company at gallery openings for rich old ladies. He's a shameless opportunist, but something about his stern negativity causes those in his orbit to seek his approval. Ives is groomed as a potential extra man while battling his nagging impulse to cross-dress. The film has been plagued by low audience and critical ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, the consensus being that it's too quirky. What's lost on these observers is the Woody Allen-level of elegance to the narrative. Ames's thoughtful style, combined with the prestige of Kevin Kline's high-toned narration, begs for some zany counterpoint, otherwise it would verge on pretension. That's the fine line Ames also tows in his fiction: an august prose style mixed with unapologetic silliness. It may not incite a lot of belly laughter, but there's a depth to the writing and unique warmth to the characters rarely found in today's typically broad appeals to the lowest-common denominator. Jonathan Ames deserves your attention. (Magnolia)