Jonathan Ames is on All Screens

Jonathan Ames is on All Screens

It’s still relatively easy to get through life without running into appropriated works by author and columnist Jonathan Ames. Of course, the literary world has had the guy on their hands for something like twenty years. But between Bored To Death entertaining premium cable subscribers over the last two years and the 2010 theatrical release of The Extra Man, it appears that Ames is poised to wind up becoming something like the next David Sedaris. And while that second guy is pretty boring at this point – or was he always? – Ames’ self deprecation seems capacious of crossing over to wider audience, one beyond well read, liberals. I’ve heard conversations prompted by day laborers in which that HBO series gets figured as entertainment. Sedaris can’t lay claim to anything like that.

So, while we wait for Ames’ inevitable fall from graces – or maybe that’s occurred as well seeing as television isn’t exactly a vaunted medium – The Extra Man creates a world not dissimilar in tone from Bored to Death, but inhabited by even more bizarre characters.

As the feature begins, viewers watch Louis (Paul Dano) ruin his teaching career in order to try on a bra. He’s caught in the act – in a pretty public space – and promptly dismissed.

Moving to New York without a job doesn’t seem like the most logical thing to do, but that’s where viewers are taken and where we spend the duration of the film as Louis lands a cheap apartment with the over-read Henry (Kevin Kline ). Before pushing through the rest of this, these two fictional folks come close to mirroring the relationship struck between Jason Schwartzman John Hodgman on Bored to Death. That might just be chalked up to consistency, though.

Either way, while Louis looks for a proper job, Henry concerns himself with providing much older women companionship, but refuses to understand his position in life as a gigolo. He does of course function as an adjunct professor of literature.

The remainder of the film, after this all too bizarre set up, is really focused on Louis’ quest of personal satisfaction pushing up against Henry’s odd rules of life. Of course, Louis is perfectly contented to pall around with all these geezers. But when he finds himself smitten with a girl who works at the same office as he does – it’s a magazine, yet another tie to that HBO show – everyone becomes more complicated. And normalcy doesn’t seem to be within grasp. It isn’t.