A gawky, Gatsby-obsessed English teacher named Louis Ives (There Will Be Blood's Paul Dano), determined to make it in the big city—aren't they all—moves into a tiny apartment with Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline), a loony, chauvinistic, fading dandy/male escort. Fancying himself a Nick Carraway figure, Louis timidly but floridly narrates his self-awakening—including a latent interest in ladies' undergarments, explored with refreshing neutrality—as he attempts to find a place among Henry's menagerie of tattered eccentrics.
Kline (chewing through the scenery, off the screen, up the aisles, and on to your face) fires off a few terrific bons mots, clearly this movie's reason for being. Describing a "date" with an elderly society matron, he quips: "It was fine. She stopped breathing for a full minute, but she rallied—she always does." But there's a level of humanity lacking at the center of all that forced quirkiness. These characters don't feel like people so much as harsh, animated bundles of affectations. It's lonely in there. John C. Reilly costars as a cheap joke personified.