In a season as bad as this one, frustration can turn to resentment.

Cyrus & The Extra Man

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis



            Why, friends ask, is summer such an abominable time for movies? It can't be said that Hollywood simply dumps the dregs into the multiplex in June; they really work hard at this summer game. What is it, we are all entitled to ask, that soaks them in the delusion that the general public loves blockbusters? The good news is that in this summer of 2010, the big ones are failing at the box office.

            The bad news is that critics who really love to go to the movies take little pleasure is slamming what they see. People who make movies work far too hard only to have some self-indulgent critic fine tune his verbal savagery at their expense. But in a season as bad as this one, frustration can turn to resentment.

            In this vein, I would suggest that you might want to skip two that are floating around now. Consider "Cyrus" and "The Extra Man." Someone has referred to "Cyrus" as a "delightfully demented comedy." I would call it instead a slightly creepy drama. John (John C. Reilly) is a lonely guy who meets Molly (Marisa Tomei), a lonely girl at a party his ex-wife (the ever fine Catherine Keener) forces him to attend. As they fall in love, we learn that Molly's 20-something son Cyrus (Jonah Hill) not only lives with his mother but has, to put it politely, a serious co-dependency problem with her. And yes, it's a creepy dependency. John C. Reilly brings his natural warmth to the role of the suitor having to deal with a possessive adult potential step son. Marisa Tomei's Molly unfortunately indulges her creep for far too long. Far worse, she doesn't seem to understand the problem and draws no boundaries around her own life.

            "The Extra Man" springs from this premise: young male teacher at a rarefied private school is fired for a cross dressing incident; middle-aged failed playwright/teacher/gigolo takes the young man in and becomes his mentor in all things Manhattan. Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) and Louis Ives (Paul Dano) are both English teachers. I hope fervently that the character name Henry Harrison was merely an unfortunate choice rather than a deliberate composite of Henry Higgins and Rex Harrison. We meet Gershon (John C. Reilly in a rare unsuccessful role) who speaks in falsetto and wears an enormous red beard. There is no apparent reason for this, or even for his existence in this movie for that matter.

            Kevin Kline has a fine time pontificating in the manner of a learned man-about-New York, but his Henry Harrison is awash in self-absorption and he is financially dependent on handouts from the ladies he escorts to the opera and various charity dinners. Moving around the city in the lifestyle he wants without paying for it is Henry's driving force. Both he and his student Louis are exploring their vastly uninteresting identities, and that is a pretty unpleasant process to watch.

 


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