I missed a couple long-lead screenings of The Extra Man (Magnolia, July 30), starring Paul Dano and Kevin Kline, which is billed as being about “a lonely young dreamer who fancies himself the hero of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel,” and what happens when he rents a room from a wildly eccentric failed playwright who serves as a social escort for the wealthy widows of Manhattan high society. As a general rule I tend to enjoy tales of warped mentorship — films that embrace the notion that there are sometimes truths and lessons to be imparted from young and old alike — but the above photo is off-putting on an instinctual level, for reasons one just feels in their bones.
I mightily dug co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s American Splendor, but the above picture — the one being peddled in almost all the advance coverage — just smacks of being dandy and twee, overly affected. A look at the film’s trailer seems to confirm this — I could barely make it through two minutes of Kline’s haughty put-on. Basically though, unless an audience instinctively knows what is being looked up at (a sci-fi “happening,” or a horror film’s menacing killer), it’s never a good idea for a film’s first/dominant still photo to have its stars gazing upward. It communicates a movie stuffed from its own sense of self-satisfaction.