Mike Judge, the creator
of Beavis and Butthead and Office Space fancies
himself a chronicler of the common man, or at least a guy who
understands how fucking tedious and occasionally insipid life
can be for people in the working class, a group also memorialized
by literary lighthouses Huey Lewis , BTO and Upton Sinclair.
I was once working
class. I'm pretty sure I'm bourgeois now, though. I learned
that word from a French movie on IFC. It means you have a nice
car and drink a lot of tea. Longtime readers remember when I
worked at the Ralston Amoco, but got shitcanned when they said
they were getting rid of the full service bay. Except they didn't
get rid of full-service, they just hired this new dude and put
up a bigass sign that said , "Now with Friendlier Service!!!"
Yeah, three exclamation points. That was fucking bullshit. I
could understand one. After all, I did piss in an Explorer's
gas tank a few times. But three? It was like they were trying
to personally insult me. Fuck them. I'm glad they had to close
because their fuel tanks rusted out and seeped 10,000 gallons
of unleaded into the water table. The taste makes me smile every
time I have a glass from the faucet.
Then I had the job
stocking shelves at the Family Dollar. That was pretty good,
actually, because you got all the free ribbon candy you could
eat, and with the employee discount flip-flops were only $1.60.
I was working for Dipshit Suzanne and her grabby hands. She
smelled like sweat and burnt meth. The Dollar is where I learned
you can't sue your boss for sexual harassment if you get a hard-on
when she shoves your hands down your pants. She told me so.
It's also where I got wrongfully fired for stealing. Yeah, I
was taking stuff, but they accused me of ripping off entirely
different shit. That's wrong.
One fall, I worked
briefly at a haunted maze, but they fired me at the end of October
without even giving me a reason. When I think about it, that
was a pretty shitty job. Chasing little kids with a bloody chainsaw
is one of those things you should always do for love, never
Currently, I don't
work, because I'm bourgeois. Mine is a life of leisure, of daytime
court TV shows, long baths, a few bottles of cough syrup and
magazines scrounged out of the trash behind the tattoo shop.
Mrs. Filthy pulls down serious coin as shift manager at Hancock
Fabric. Enough to pay for the apartment, the dog, food and utilities
most months. If I need to, I work with her twice a year making
nine bucks an hour doing "inventory", which really means sleeping
among the calico bolts while a bunch of ladies count buttons.
Plus, I get like $15 a week from the Google Ads on the left
hand side of this page. Seriously. Last week, it was like $20.
That's enough for a student price matinee (I'm a student of
life), and four Pabst Blue Ribbons on tap at Binker's Pub. And
when I have time to drink a half-gallon of beer, I find time
to skim a few sips off the other glasses at the bar while their
owners are squeezing the spit out of their garden weasels.
What I'm saying is
that since I now live a life of leisure I may no longer be the
target audience for Mike Judge's movies. Maybe that's why I
thought Extract mostly sucked. Of, course, it could also
be that the movie just isn't any good.
Bateman is the successful
owner of a small flavor-extract company. He dreams of selling
out and retiring because, well, I don't know. Other times he
talks about how much he loves extract science. His wife (Kristen
Wiig) is a graphic designer who works at home and has frozen
him out of sex through the use of sweatpants. Dude, Mrs. Filthy
only wears sweatpants and they can be fucking hot. Especially
the kind that bunch up around the waist. Oh, mama. At the beginning
of the movie, this is Bateman's only complaint in life, that
his wife shuts down if he isn't home by eight p.m.
His extract factory
is populated by idiots. The forklift driver always crashes and
plays in five separate death-metal bands. The line crew either
complains too much or doesn't pay attention. J.K. Simmons plays
Bateman's right-hand man, but I never got a sense of what his
job was. He's supposed to be the other smart guy, but I never
saw it. Hell, I never saw Bateman as smart. He makes bad decisions
and he's easily influenced.
An accident at the
factory leaves a worker (Clifton Collins ,Jr.) laid up and missing
a ball. A lawsuit could break the company. Collins doesn't want
to sue, though; he just wants to be floor manager. Once his
nut heals, anyway. Into town comes a grifter played by Mila
Kunis. She's a low-level criminal who sees the single-baller
as her ticket to riches. Her plan is to sweet-talk him into
suing, using a greasy bus-bench-ad lawyer to do it. Kunis also
tries to seduce Bateman, for what reason beyond their first
encounter I never understood. Because he's unhappy in his marriage
and wants to bone her, Bateman wishes he could be free of his
commitment to Wiig. Under the advice of his sleazy bartender
(Ben Affleck) and the influence of a horse tranquilizer, he
hires a dirt-dumb gigolo to fuck his wife so he won't feel guilty
about thumping Kunis. That sets off a series of events that
plays out in a sort of stunted slow-motion. It's part clumsy
noir plotting and part missed-slapstick that Judge tries to
elevate into something less-than funny.
The story doesn't
make a lot of sense. It doesn't make sense that Kunis, as a
con artist, would keep flirting with Bateman when she doesn't
need to. The actions of almost every character happen without
us ever understanding them well enough to believe they would
do it. Kunis has a change of heart at movie's end that feels
convenient to the plot, but insincere. Hell, most of it does,
like a director is moving the pieces for whatever reason he
like a pegleg in a snowstorm. First, there are two stories that
don't really fit together that well. First is the one of Bateman
trying to justify his affair by getting a dude to shovel gorgonzola
into his wife. Second is the one where a grifter tries to exploit
an injured worker without regard to the workers at the company
it would break. Probably the first one is better suited to how
Judge tells stories. Even with the two storylines, though, the
movie repeats itself and feels like there's not enough to fill
100 minutes. I can't count how many times the dumb gigolo repeats
his "funny" line of asking for referrals to other chicks needing
Bateman is a good
character actor, but the sleepy nonchalance he brings to smaller
roles doesn't help here. The guy just isn't that interesting
or dynamic and the character is neither likeable or unlikeable.
As he says a few times, he knows his life is boring. He's right,
but acknowledging it doesn't change the fact. I also rarely
feel sorry or moved by characters who choose their life path
and then piss and moan that it's not what they wanted. If you're
forced down a path, that's one thing. But Bateman's character
is just a whiny bitch with a nice car and great house. He's
having a fucking mid-life crisis and should buy a Harley, a
bunch of leather and get a tattoo of some Chinese lettering
on his arm.
Kunis is more cute
than hot. She doesn't have the chops or the coldness to play
a con artist. The role is written pretty thin anyway; she's
given nothing to do but bat her eyes and steal stuff. This wouldn't
be a good role for anyone since there's just not much there.
But it would be better played by someone cold, calculating and
with a fantastic rack. That Bateman is supposed to be a well-liked
and intelligent guy and could fall so easily for her makes them
both sort of icky.
I think what bummed
me out most about Extract is that it just isn't funny.
It's willfully unfunny. It's like it goes out of its way to
make things sort-of-amusing-but-not-really. There's a few good
gags, but jokes at the expense of a sleazy lawyer are nothing
new. Hell, I think sleazy lawyers get bonked on the head with
shit on Mexican sketch comedy. Maybe Judge thought he was making
some important movie, or something more serious and so it couldn't
have big, bold jokes. Whatever, a comedy without laughs is a
I'm a bourgeois fuck. Its easy for me to say that Judge's idea
of the boss man and his blue-collar workers is lame and undeveloped.
That's what us assholes do. Two Fingers for Extract.
to tell Filthy Something?