Eye For Film >> Movies >> Extras (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
When a Chinese film crew decide to shoot a tragedy, they settle on Poland as the ideal setting. The reason? The Polish people are the most miserable in the world. The locals are a little offended by this, but such is their desire for stardom that they decide to get involved anyway, and as the story progresses, it's their stories which come to dominate the action.
Extras is a film about the little people. At first they seem like nonentities, but as the story unravels we gradually get to know more about them - the difficulties they face in life, their dreams, and their various quirks.
An old man whose family worry about him to the extent of trying to keep him a prisoner at home, longs to become a movie star. A younger man, devoted to the care of his mentally vulnerable mother, longs for love. An orphan raised by her sister is taking the first few steps toward independence. A divorced man whose wife ran away with her fellow chorister seeks to destroy the church, and a widow whose devotion to her husband has outlived him by eight years is about to break free. Then there's Romek, who keeps hanging around because he's desperate to get back together with the woman he once abandoned and the son he's never really known. As these complicated lives become woven together a real story develops and the glamour of the story in the Chinese film begins to fade.
There are a number of problems with Extras. It's slow to start and many of the characters are difficult to like - though, looked at another way, that's part of their realism and a contributory factor in the sly comedy which underlies the story. Some viewers will find the racist attitudes expressed by some characters uncomfortable. The film never seems to agree with them, but it would have been nice to see the Chinese characters given a little more depth - we scarcely get to know them at all. In a way, they represent us - the outside world looking in, as Poland seems always to be defined by how others observe it rather than in its own terms. Extras gives it the chance, like its characters, to find its own voice.Reviewed on: 18 Oct 2007