Sunday, August 22, 2010

"The Extra Man", a wacky Gatsby-like comedy; hint: most cross-dressers are straight!

I recall a legal case in the 1990s where a lesbian reporter in Washington State was transferred to “copyediting” to avoid “conflict of interest” and this was a big deal. On the other hand, I like hearing, in a movie, that a transfer from “sales” to “writing” is a good thing for a “creative” person, and I might question whether copyediting is really creative writing. I also recall a workplace situation myself where a music graduate was working for a Canadian company directing the sales of symphony orchestra season tickets by phone, rather than composing and performing. In fact, I know another rock musician who sells long term care and Medicare supplemental insurance for a “living”.

All this ran through my mind at a point toward the end of “The Extra Man” where Louis Ives, played by a very tender-skinned Paul Dano, has things turn out well. It’s a quirky tale where a Louis gets fired – or laid off – from a small college literature teaching job in New Jersey after being observed in an incidental cross dressing experiment. Louis, seeing himself as a kind of Nick Carraway from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" (“the only honest man in the world”) narrating the lives of others or watching his own life narrated, moves to New York and rents a room from the eccentric and moralistic [he opposes the education of women, which he says affect them in the “boudoir”] ex-playwright (maybe), Henry Harrison, played by an aging Kevin Kline, and becomes an extra high-fashion male escort at social events, scraping by on little money, while scraping by as a telephone salesman for an environmental journal (where befriends a geek played by Katie Holmes).

The most interesting scenes may be the follow-on cross dressing experiments by Louis, some of them with paid female tricksters; Louis fulfills the maxim that most transsexuals (including drag queens at gay clubs) are straight, and some actually find cross dressing as part of a heterosexual ritual. And Dano (actually 26) looks, oh, so youthful and innocent. Klive looks decrepit, particularly in the scene where he shows a bizarre tattoo on his balding leg.

There’s a subplot involving neighbor Gershon (John C. Reilly), who has such a high-pitched voice – something about whether a play or story can be “stolen” (remember “Secret Window”?)

The film, from Magnolia, in Cinemascope, is directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini.

A Sunday afternoon showing at the Cinema Arts in Fairfax VA was about half full, but the film showing stopped before the end credits.

Magnolia’s site for the film is here.

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