Venture into NYC’s cinemascape this week and you can taste the fruit of last January’s unusually terrific Sundance Film Festival. Exit Through the Gift Shop, made by the mysterious Banksy, is still drawing crowds; Restrepo, shot in the Afghanistan war zone, conscripts its audience to a harrowing tour of duty; and The Kids Are All Right might be redefining family fare. Where are the toxic levels of quirk we expect from Park City—the twee soundtracks, hipster girlfriends and annoyingly adorable coming-of-age stories?
The Extra Man, laden with all that crap and more, is the movie you were hoping to avoid. Starring Little Miss Sunshine’s Paul Dano (who, by way of this film and Gigantic, is seriously beginning to disappear into the cutesy ghetto), the movie establishes its starchy, wanna-be-literary hero and throws him into a deathly arch Manhattan populated by a stern but rascally older roommate (Kline), a bushy-bearded neighbor (John C. Reilly) and a sylphlike lust object (Holmes). How long will it be before a twinkling Velvet Underground song is heard? Or before young and old swap choice bits of insta-wisdom?
We might blame codirectors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, creators of the deft American Splendor, but they seem like peripheral targets; so, too, is original novelist Jonathan Ames. Rather, the fault lies with the undue influence of that depressing dead end for American cinema: Wes Anderson. His The Royal Tenenbaums looms like a tower of impossible loveliness, but already the edifice is crumbling. Today’s dramatists need to get out of the way or risk being crushed.—Joshua Rothkopf
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