11 December 2009

EXTRACT (Dir. Mike Judge, 2009, US) - Counter Corporate Culture

Jason Bateman as Joel, the owner of an extract company.

With ‘Extract’, American director and writer Mike Judge returns to the familiar territory of the workplace. Alongside Richard Linklater, Judge seems to have developed a knack for representing the contradictions of Middle America and in ‘Extract’ like ‘Office Space’ it is corporate assimilation that he critiques through the prism of social satire. Joel (Jason Bateman) is the proud owner of an independently controlled extract factory but he can do little to hide the painful disintegration of his marriage. When a corporation offers to buy him out, Joel’s plans go awry when one of the workers at the extract plant is involved in a freak accident, resulting in the castration of one of his testicles. This being a Mike Judge film, the loss of a testicle triggers a lawsuit by the worker, which in turn helps Joel to make the decision not to sell the company and maintain the dignity of his workers. Like ‘Office Space’, ‘Extract’ also suggests that resisting corporate assimilation and ensuring that the workplace is democratically sustained is a process of common sense.

In contrast to the alienated, pacified worker drone of ‘Office Space’, ‘Extract’ shows an ideological unity amongst the workforce strictly because the absence of a dictatorial and suffocating hierarchical management has been replaced with style of leadership that is much more intimate and humane. If Judge continues satirising the workplace with the venomous brand of social and political satire he has cultivated over the years then his oeuvre might one day offer one of the singularly exclusive Marxist critiques on corporate capitalism that has emerged from the mainstream comedy genre. It is of little surprise that Mike Judge’s films are criminally under rated and often misunderstood by mainstream film academia and the Hollywood dependent review system as he repeatedly questions dominant ideals. Jason Bateman continues to prove he has exemplary comic time whilst Ben Affleck's minor role as a hippy confidante means a sort of muted redemption for his putrefied career as an actor. So far this film has not been scheduled for a UK release.

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