Mike Judge is a great comic observer. It’s apparent from most of his work that he likes to record how humans interact, how they bounce off the other’s peculiarities, and he has a special fondness for workplace absurdities. Judge’s 2009 film Extract – which follows the owner (Jason Bateman) of a Vanilla extract bottling plant as he struggles with selling his company and a wife that has become frigid – is all about the small details. Though the film never amounts to much, there are a number of wry, memorable moments to savor from the movie. My review of Extract after the jump.
Bateman stars as Joel, who is married to Suzie (Kristen Wiig), and complains about how when he gets home late she ties off her sweatpants, which has come to signify that there’s going to be no sex that night. This was in the trailers, but both Judge and Wiig gives this a lot of nuance, as does Bateman when he complains to his druggie friend Dean (Ben Affleck) about how he wants to get better insulation for his bathroom so he can’t hear what his wife is watching while he masturbates. Suzie and Joel have grown apart and both realize that there’s a distance but they don’t know what to do about it. He’s got an annoying neighbor in Nathan (David Koechner), one of those guys who passive-aggressively inserts himself into long conversation, and wants Joel to go with him to some function – and you get the sense Nathan knows he can probably brow-beat Joel into this. Then at work Joel’s manager Brian (J.K. Simmons) can’t remember the majority of the employees names, while everyone who works there either keeps their head down or is partly insane. Mary (Beth Grant) constantly complains about how hard she works while not working and forklift operator Rory (T.J. Miller) talks mostly about the bands he’s in and the shows he does on the weekends. Cindy (Mila Kunis) enters into the story when she finds out about would-be foreman Step (Clifton Collins Jr.) and his workplace accident. She sees a settlement check in his future, and as a very attractive woman, knows how to hustle her way into it. She’s a smart cookie grifter and Joel sees her and has thoughts of infidelity. This leads to him hiring Brad (Dustin Milligan) to seduce his wife as he plans on selling out his business for the big payday, but with Step threatening a class action lawsuit, that future is put in jeopardy.
This is all the first act of the film, but Judge layers in so much character and nuance that such a description only pecks at the surface. And yet everything is done in a very low key way. Bateman, who’s become one of cinema’s most reliable comic ringers, doesn’t have much to do except get exasperated, and so most everyone else delivers the comic relief. But from them you get a great sense of Judge’s canny ear for how people bitch and do stupid things, something that has been his greatest talent going back to Beavis and Butthead. It all feels modest, though, it’s breezy – almost lackadaisical – and it never builds up much of a sense of narrative urgency. Perhaps if it were a couple episode arc of King of the Hill it would feel like a good little run, but as a film you keep waiting for it to kick-start to something bigger or more. That never happens, even if what you get is interesting enough.
Miramax presents the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD. The transfer is excellent, but as this is a comedy, don’t expect much in terms of demo quality. There’s a making of (11 min.) that’s EPK-ish, and has Judge making fun of himself as an actor. It’s pretty much fluff, but it does get the cast talking. There’s a deleted scene (1 min.) and some extended scenes (4 min.) that most give Ben Affleck more room to play. That’s it, though. It’s a modest disc, which befits the film.