Saturday, August 22, 2009

Extract (2009), Mike Judge.

So, I attended my first evah movie premiere: Extract at the Paramount Theatre in Austin on the 18th of August. It was a completely oddball but thrilling experience for a reticent person like myself who normally watches flicks either alone or with other ordinary schmucks in the local multiplex. So having no idea I was supposed to bring a camera and get a shot with Jason Bateman or Mike Judge, who were in attendance, I just sat in my seat waiting for the film to start. And what was with the copious drinking and why is the film not starting right at eight? As soon as the movie started rolling and the actors began speaking their lines, the audience was crippled with giant laffs. I looked around in surprise, thinking - Jaysus, that was funny but not HILARIOUS, was it? I know, I am a total rube.

I like Mike Judge products because they are simply one man's view of the world and obviously not committee written. He's one of a few American directors that prefers to use movies to examine everyday life rather than escape from it. The settings are identifiable, tangible. During Q&A Judge acknowledged that some of the scenes were filmed in Austin, including the scene at the Best Western - must be something particular about that completely homogeneous motel chain...! The film's title refers to an actual extract plant that had at one point existed in town, and Judge pointed out that Mr and Mrs Extract were actually right here with us in the audience. Kewl! Just as an aside, at a party in university, a guy studying biochem once passionately explained to me that synthetic food flavourings - vanilla extract was his example - are chemically exactly the same thing as the real deal, so weren't people morons for paying so much more money for the "real thing" when there was no difference at the molecular level between the two? This came to mind when the film played. Dude, whoever you were and wherever you are: here is a film for YOU!

The original Adams Extract plant in Austin.

Jason Bateman is the central character and plays a moderately successful business owner whose dissatisfaction with life drives him into strange experiments that include taking a monster drag off a ten foot bong. Actually, the plot of Extract reminded me of all my favourite Coen bros flicks, which seem to have a couple of wild card characters wreaking havoc on ordinary folks. Mila Kunis plays a gorgeous young grifter who throws everything into chaos. It's well paced and enjoyable, and probably one of Judge's more accessible creations - more Office Space than Idiocracy.

I'd like to apologize to Mike Judge for laughing out loud when he said he would go & wash dishes when he had writer's block during Beavis & Butthead. All I could picture was the episode where they threw burgers into an overhead fan for seven minutes and wondered how anyone could get writer's block for that, but I am sure Judge meant while writing the movie, not the series!

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