Movie Review: Extract
Let’s get this out of the way. I am completely incapable of objectively reviewing this movie. Extract is the story of a small business owner who tries to run a profitable manufacturing company that makes flavoring extracts. My husband used to be a small business owner who tried to run a profitable manufacturing company that made Snowplows. Flavoring extracts and Snowplows are obscure products that no one ever thinks about, but the truth is, somebody has to make them. If it exists, there is a story behind it. Extract deftly satirizes the everyday life in a manufacturing plant. The employee stereotypes and the day to day bullshit that comes with being the owner of a factory were so spot on that I actually became paranoid that director Mike Judge had peeked into my life. Of course everything is greatly exaggerated for comedic effect, but it still hit pretty close to home. A few years ago, my husband was Jason Bateman’s character Joel. I felt like this movie was made just for me, so I connected with it differently than an average movie goer might. Now on with the review.
Joel (Jason Bateman) owns a flavoring syrup company and is passionate about extracts. He is a good employer, and cares about his product, but is ready to get out. General Mills may give him that out by buying the company. Of course mere days before the sale the perfect OSHA record of the company is completely obliterated by a freak factory accident that causes employee Step (Clifton Collins Jr.) to lose a testicle. Joel’s dreams are dashed as the company prepares for a lawsuit. Fortunately, Step is a real stand-up guy and doesn’t want to sue, he just wants his job back when he is better.
Grifter Cindy (Mila Kunis, adorable as always) reads about the incident in the paper and decides to woo Step (an easy target) and convince him to sue so she can get her hands on the money. She sashays her way into a temp job at the factory and draws googly eyes from every male in the building, including Joel. With a bat of an eye, she is poised to destroy the empire that Joel has built up over his entire adult life.
On the homefront, Joel and his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig) aren’t having much sex, and if you have seen the trailer, you know that the running joke is that she puts her sweatpants at 8pm sharp, and after the pants go on there is no opportunity for Joel to get some lovin’. He’s a bit back-upped, so to speak, and with the stress from work he could really use a stress-release, if you catch my drift.
His race to get home before the window of opportunity slams shut is circumvented on a daily basis by his unbelievably nosy and intrusive neighbor Nathan (David Koechner, pitch perfect as the neighbor from hell). Nathan always wants to ask stupid questions and rambles incessantly about inconsequential matters. He is so annoying that Suzie and Joel have become prisoners in their house, and won’t venture out to their yard for fear of being cornered.
Joel commiserates with his stoner bartender friend Dean (Ben Affleck) at a local bar. He admits he has the hots for Cindy, but he can’t bring himself to cheat. Dean’s hair-brained solution is to hire a male gigolo (of course he knows of the perfect one for the job) to seduce Suzie, so Joel will no longer feel guilty about cheating on her. That is the setup of this black comedy. The rest of the movie is a comedy of errors that had me in stitches. When the strait-laced Joel finally succumbs to peer pressure and takes a bong-hit (out of a 3-foot bong) I was crying I was laughing so hard.
The acting is great all around, but this is Bateman’s movie. If you liked him in Arrested Development, you will love him here. Nobody conveys passive-aggressive exasperation better. He makes the movie, and I can not picture anyone else in the role. J.K. Simmons (Juno) is perfectly cast as a plant manager who can’t be bothered to learn the employee’s names. A surprise for me was Ben Affleck, who is very funny as the drugged out Dean. With a superbly funny stint hosting SNL last year, and now this, I think Affleck is emerging as a true comedic talent. Kristen Wiig and Mila Kunis are fine, but the men really steal the show in this movie. Gene Simmons (yes, from KISS) has a delicious role as the sleazy lawyer trying to bleed Joel dry.
If there is one thing people can justly criticize, it’s that not one person in the entire movie besides Joel has an iota of intelligence or common sense. Everyone is a complete idiot. Hopefully, no one would ever find themselves surrounded by such a ragtag bunch of fools in real life.
I don’t care, because I don’t believe that Mike Judge intended on these characters to be taken seriously. This is, after all, the man who brought us Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, and Office Space. The factory workers are caricatures, but there is a grain of truth to every one of the stereotypes. After 10 years of attending factory Christmas parties, I can attest that there are some colorful personalities that work in factories. Judge just picks out a personality trait and blows it up larger than life for each of the characters. If you find that offensive, then you need to lighten up. This movie isn’t meant to be deep by any means, it’s just poking some fun at a business owner and the obstacles thrown his way by taking it to the absurd. Judge throws in some biting dialogue and astute observations about work relationships along the way.
A couple of the remarks I heard on the way out were confusion over why the film was about an flavoring extract plant (which is precisely why it is so genius to have that particular product be at the center of the film, it can be about any manufactured product) and that it seems Judge has not branched out much, he has just replaced an office with a factory. Fine by me. I’d love to see him revisit a different work environment on a yearly basis. Office Space at Sea World, Office Space at a restaurant, Office Space on Wall Street, hey, I’m all in.
This is hands down my favorite comedy of the year besides The Hangover (which is not exactly grounded in realism, is it?).
Frothygirlz rating 8.5/10 You can watch the trailer below, or view this featurette.