Friday, September 4, 2009

Flavorful "Extract"

"Extract" is an offbeat, kind movie about extraction, as in being loose when you're feeling impacted. Joel (Jason Bateman) is experiencing a stalled marriage and flirting with the idea that it will help to retire. The die is cast when his druggie bartender buddy Dean (Ben Affleck, in one of the best performances of his career), meaning to give him a Xanax to improve his mood, accidentally slips him a horse tranquilizer, in whose throes Joel makes the fateful decision to authorize the hiring of a male prostitute to seduce his wife Suzie (Kristen Wiig), which will enable him in turn to seduce an inventive grifter, Cindy (Mila Kunis, right), without feeling guilty about it.

All this happens in a small town somewhere populated by small-town characters whom writer-director Mike Judge indulges and embraces rather than ridicules. Marvelously and phlegmatically played by Bateman, Joel is a good guy whom it's hard to feel especially sorry for. In graduate school, he invented a root beer extract recipe. He's now rich with a talented wife and beautiful house. At his extract factory, the genial plant manager, Brian (J. K. Simmons), keeps everything humming along, though he calls all the employees "Dingus" because he can't remember their names. The greatest thorn in Joel's side is his banally diabolical neighbor, Nathan (David Koechner, above), who spends most of the movie trying to collect $110 from Joel and Suzie for tickets to a Rotary Club dinner they don't want. You're not sure whom you want to strangle first -- Nathan or Joel for putting up with him. In the end, the couple realize they're free after all, Joel by taking care of people, Suzie by saying what she means. They even go cheerfully to the Rotary Club dinner, though Nathan can't make it.

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