Monday, August 28, 2017

#2,414. Office Space (1999)

Directed By: Mike Judge

Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman

Tag line: "Work Sucks"

Trivia: After poor box office returns, this movie gained cult status on video

Even if you’ve never worked in a cubicle, or attended a morning meeting that seemed to drag on forever, odds are you’ll still enjoy Office Space, the smartly-written 1999 workplace comedy directed by Mike Judge (the creative mind behind the Beavis and Butthead cartoon series). 

But if you’re like me, and spent years toiling away in an office environment like the one depicted in this film, there are moments in Office Space that will have you laughing out loud.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is unhappy with his job. A computer programmer for Initech, Peter has 8 different bosses that he reports to on a daily basis (all of whom hound him whenever he makes a mistake), and the company’s head honcho, Bill Lumburgh (Gary Cole) has asked him to work yet another Saturday. To make matter worse, Initech has hired two consultants, Bob Sydell (John C. McGinley) and Bob Porter (Paul Willson), to spearhead a company-wide downsizing, meaning a round of layoffs will likely be coming very shortly.

To help him deal with his stress, Peter’s girlfriend Anne (Alexandra Wentworth) convinces him to visit Dr. Swnason (Michael McShane), an occupational hypnotherapist. But when a tragedy brings their session to an abrupt end, a mostly-hypnotized Peter finds he has a whole new outlook on life, and doesn’t care about his job anymore. None too happy with Peter’s new attitude, Anne dumps him the very next day, which clears the way for Peter to hook up with Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a pretty yet confused waitress he’s had his eye on for some time.

And while Mr. Lumburgh definitely has issues with the “New Peter”, who only shows up to work when he feels like it, the consultants are convinced that Peter’s carefree approach makes him the ideal candidate for an executive position! But Peter has his own plans for “advancement”, and with the help of fellow programmers Michael Bolton (David Herman) and Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu), both of whom were recently laid off, Peter unleashes a computer virus at Initech that, if all goes well, will make him and his two cohorts very rich men.

One of the strengths of Office Space is its collection of bizarre characters. Ron Livingston is well-cast as the lead, whose transformation from a manic-depressive employee to a free spirit who no longer gives a damn is one of the film’s most appealing aspects; and even though her character isn’t given much to do, Jennifer Aniston also gets a few laughs when she’s on the job (her manager at the restaurant, played by director Mike Judge, is constantly criticizing her lack of uniform accessories).

In addition, Gary Cole is at his smarmy best as the top executive nobody likes (the scene where employees gather around and half-heartedly sing “Happy Birthday” to Cole’s Bill Lumburgh reminded me of just about every office birthday party I’ve ever attended), and Diedrich Bader has a small but memorable role as Peter’s boisterous next-door neighbor Lawrence. The real show-stopper, though, is Stephen Root’s portrayal of Milton Waddans, a meek, slightly deranged Initech employee who mumbles to himself, and threatens to burn the office down if anyone tries to take his stapler away from him. Based on a character created by Judge for a series of animated shorts (which were simply titled Milton), Milton is, indeed, cartoonish and over-the-top, but Root somehow makes him endearing as well. 

But as great as its characters are, Office Space is, first and foremost, an excellent parody of a typical office setting, and as someone who has endured both the good and the bad of what corporate America had to offer, I found it absolutely hilarious. Memories came rushing back as I watched this movie, like dealing with morning traffic (which put you in a foul mood before you even sat down at your desk); trying to clear a paper jam from a copier that isn’t jammed at all; and crunching numbers for a series of endless reports that are seldom different from week to week. Obviously, these aren’t what I would categorize as “happy” memories (one job was so particularly soul-crushing that when they told me they were laying me off, I locked myself in the bathroom and did a 3-minute dance of joy), but seeing other people endure these same frustrations certainly had me grinning from ear-to-ear.

And if you’ve ever worked in an office yourself, Office Space is sure to make you smile as well.

1 comment:

Peter Nielsen said...

Hey, Dave
This is one of my favorites... The first time I watched this, I was laughing so much my stomach hurt!
The day after, I was at a friend's house telling him about it, and mere minutes after I'd left for home, he immediately went to the video store to rent it... And yes, He loved it as much as I did!