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The Extra Man: Jonathan Ames extra-bisexual book will be a movie

By Sheela Lambert

Katie Holmes & Paul Dano in "The Extra Man"

I was astonished to learn that "The Extra Man," Jonathan Ames' brilliant, offbeat and very queer novel has been made into a movie starring Kevin Kline, Katie Holmes, John C. Reilly, Patti D’Arbanville, Cathy Moriarity and Paul Dano.

The ingeniously eccentric character of Henry Harrison (the older man who becomes roommate and mentor to Louis Ives, the character loosely based on author Jonathan Ames) must have been tempting to try to put on film, especially with his crazy dialogue already written and Kevin Kline in the role.

But this is why I’m wondering how the hell this movie was green lit:

The main character of the story, Luis Ives, is a young man who is fired from his Princeton prep school teaching job, after he is discovered by the principal’s wife trying on the bra of a female colleague in the faculty lounge.

After moving to NYC, he becomes obsessed with visiting Sally's, a tranny bar in Times Square, and purchases off-site “dates” from the beautiful working ladies several times. And he doesn’t shy away from their still-attached “equipment” when he encounters it.

On the nights he doesn’t go home from Sally's with tranny working ladies, he goes to the Peep Show up the block to “finish off” his evening.

He flashes back to a crossdressing phase during his youth and a sexual encounter with a man.

He visits a “recession spankologist” and a crossdressing service found in the back pages of The New York Press (the paper where the real Jonathan Ames was a columnist for two years.)

He has no love interest to speak of, just a co-worker (at the office of an environmental magazine where he gets a job) he is sexually obsessed with but barely speaks to and his one attempt to ask her out is rebuffed.

The apartment he moves into in New York is cluttered and filthy which can sound romantic if described in dazzling prose but doesn’t translate well visually and usually winds up looking revolting on film, (remember White Palace?)

The story is written in the first person and contains much internal neurotic musing, including Louis’s obsession with finding out the sexual orientation of his mentor, who claims he is asexual but escorts rich old ladies as an “extra man” to parties & events and constantly peppers his conversation with remarks about homosexuals and “urnings,” leaving an ambiguous impression of bisexuality.

I'm wondering how much of the above will be cut or softpedalled to make this film (now in post-production) more palatable for the general public and whether they will try to beef up Katie Holmes' role into a love interest. I highly recommend the book and am very curious how the film will turn out.

Intriguing quotes:

"I wanted to be both of them. I wanted to be strong enough to hold someone, or lovely enough to be held." [Luis Ives' response to observing an opposite sex couple making out]

"Everyone interesting is trisexual."

"Was I trisexual? Did the opposing forces of heterosexuality and homosexuality, like Drive and Reverse in a car, knock someone into the neutrality of asexuality?"

Here is the film synopsis:

A sophisticated and moving comedy, THE EXTRA MAN follows Louis Ives (Paul Dano), a lonely dreamer who fancies himself the hero of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel…

When a deeply embarrassing incident forces him to leave his job at an exclusive Princeton prep school, Louis heads to New York City to make a fresh start. He quickly finds a nine-to-five job at an environmental magazine, where he encounters an entrancing, green-obsessed co-worker Mary (Katie Holmes). But it’s Louis’ new home life that really sparks his imagination. He rents a room in the ramshackle apartment of Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), a penniless, wildly eccentric but brilliant playwright.

When Henry’s not dancing alone to obscure music or singing operettas, he’s performing – with great panache – the duties of an “extra man,” a social escort for the wealthy widows of Manhattan high society.

These two men, separated in age by more than forty years, develop a volatile mentor/apprentice relationship. Through a series of urban adventures where they encounter everything from a leaping lion to a wildly jealous hirsute neighbor, from drunken nonagenarians to a shady Swiss hunchback, Louis and Henry form a memorable bond that bridges their differences.