Friday, 26 March 2010
I think I had a very similar reaction to Extract as I did to Mike Judge's most successful film prior to this, Office Space. It's funny, cleverly satirical and enjoyable without being all that great. They both mildly intrigued me and approached their subject matter cleverly, the jokes make you smile and the performances are good. But my theory is Judge is a little too polite when he should be biting. That seems to be a silly thing to say in a film where a man pays a gigolo to have an affair with his wife so he can sleep around guilt free, and a dude literally has his balls cut off by the emasculating workplace ( metaphors are awesome!) but still. Judge has a little too much sympathy for his characters to really hammer the nail home, which in satire is something you really need to do if you want what you're doing to land.
But I enjoyed Extract. I appreciated what it tried to do, and a film with Jason Bateman in the lead role is certainly going to get some love from me. The Arrested Development alum is perfect for the role of the self-righteous but frustrated and uptight Joel. His skills of communicating exasperation are second to none, honed no doubt from three years of reacting to ridiculousness on AD, so what could have been quite a 2D role where the main character is the lead just because he is, Bateman makes much more empathetic then he could have been. But, somewhat awesomely, Extract becomes the second film in history, after the overrated Shakespeare In Love, to be stolen by Ben Affleck. Yes I've seen Daredevil and Gigli and know that as a leading man, Affleck is smug and intolerable. But I refuse to be entirely cynical about him because I think he can act, and he's a great here as Bateman's amoral hippy best friend. Most of the movies laughs come courtesy of Affleck, so fair play to the dude. Also kudos to Kristen Wiig, who takes the every disposable wife/girlfriend role and is pretty funny without having all that much to do. The supporting cast is full of reliable players too, which is always great to see. J.K Simmons, Beth Grant and Clifton Collins Jr, who may be the best actor in Hollywood that nobody has ever heard of. His performance in Capote was almost as good as Philip Seymour Hoffman's and he does what he can with his good 'ol boy hick. Mila Kunis gets a bit lost in the crowd as a nifty con-woman, but she's OK. Her looks still outpace her talent but its an improvement.
Judge script is the kind that you like but don't love, much like his films really. It has plenty of clever concepts, a few good lines and plenty of funny performances. But you'll never need or want to see it again, because its just not quite cutting enough.