Movies: Extract * * *
(16, general release)
A brief glance at the cast list should tell you what kind of film Extract is, because it reads like a who's who of US independent comedy. Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, JK Simmons and Clifton Collins Jr are all regulars performers in the more subversive brand of American comic feature films, and look right at home in this one.
Written and directed by Mike Judge (creator of Beavis & Butthead), Extract stars Bateman as Joel Reynolds, the owner of a factory that makes a mysterious kind of vanilla extract.
Superficially, Joel has it all -- a big car, a nice wife (Kristen Wiig), his own business and a McMansion in a gated community. But he's not all that happy: he hates his neighbour, his wife doesn't have sex with him, and his child-like, moaning employees are so annoying that he has decided to sell the company and have done with it.
The plot thickens when his slacker, bartending friend (Ben Affleck, in a nicely unlikely role) comes up with a plan that will allow him to cheat on his wife guilt-free.
This involves hiring a gigolo to pose as a pool cleaner and seduce her: once she succumbs, Joel will be free to run after a glamorous new employee (Mila Kunis) with a secret agenda of her own.
At times Extract is really funny, with a wickedly subversive take on American life and competent turns from all its players. But it flags a bit halfway through, too many of the characters are one-dimensional cyphers, and there's a sourness to Mike Judge's world view that tends to leave a sour taste in the mouth.