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Office Space: Mike Judge’s Master Piece. (1999)

In my opinion, Mike Judge is probably the best writer in Hollywood, period.  Not only is he the brains behind “Office Space,” but “King of the Hill” (which ran for 13 seasons) and “Idiocracy” as well.  However, I believe that “Office Space” is truly his masterpiece.  Though I have never worked in corporate America, most of my clients have, and they all say the same thing; “Office Space” is an incredibly true-to-life story about one’s existence and experience at the workplace, and anyone who has ever worked in a large office will find at least one element to relate to.  In fact, I like this movie so much that I have chosen seven clips to post, a record here at the jpfmovies.wordpress.com movie site.

I am unsure that there are enough good things to say about Office Space from a movie perspective (yes, I know it’s not going to win the Nobel Peace Prize.)  It has everything a great film needs: A compelling story, excellent acting, outrageous jokes, and a first-rate soundtrack.  Moreover, because it is a satire, the movie actually examines a larger issue facing many people today—disillusionment–whether it is found in their jobs, relationships, or where they are in life. Mike Judge, in my opinion, correctly and effectively points out that there is no shortage of disillusionment among us.

The story is about a disaffected Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) who has an office job at Innitech (some sort of software company) that he truly despises.  He hates his job so much, that during an occupational hypnosis session, he acknowledges that every day is the worst day of his life.  While he is at this session, the hypnotizer suffers a heart attack and dies, leaving Peter in a blissful state of lacking any inhibitions whatsoever.  While in his state of grace, as things begin to go “wrong,” in the traditional sense, they actually get better.  For instance, he is utterly candid with the two efficiency experts (coincidentally both named Bob), confessing that he does “maybe 15 minutes of actual real work” per week “not because [he] is lazy, it’s just that [he] doesn’t care.”  The refreshingly honest admission he offers while outlining his job duties to the consultants, does not get him fired, but instead earns him a promotion as his noses-to-the-grindstone friends are laid off.

He has several (not as) disillusioned friends at Innitech: Michael Bolton (David Herman), who gets a lot of grief, since he has the same name as the pop singer, and Samir (Ajay Naidu), an Indian immigrant who just wants to keep his job and who also has a problematic name–one that nobody can pronounce correctly.  Another friend is Tom Smykowski (Richard Riehle), an employee who is considered useless and, like the inventor of the pet rock, wants to make $1 million dollars with his “Jump to Conclusions Mat,” his easy scheme from which to get rich.  Then there is Milton (Stephen Root), a strange, mumbling man who can’t stand up for himself.  Milton has an unnatural attachment to his red stapler (a Swingline as he reminds us several times throughout the movie).  There is the “evil” boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), who makes Peter, Tom, Michael and Samir work on Saturdays and Sundays and routinely torments everyone, particularly Milton, who is eventually moved into the unlit company’s basement along with a can of pesticide to kill cockroaches.

On a side note, Swingline had not manufactured Milton’s red stapler for years (a prop department employee, named Ric Trzeciak, painted one with red paint, according to the film’s commentary).  However, in 2002 the company released a limited edition series of the red stapler portrayed in the movie as a result of customer interest.  Apparently owning and displaying the red stapler is one way some employees protest their work environment, a fact I find remarkable and clearly demonstrates just how much this movie resonated with viewers.

Peter also loves Joanna (Jennifer Aniston) from afar.  Aniston plays a waitress at a restaurant Peter and his friends frequent, but Peter can’t ask her out, because he does not have the confidence (yet).  After being hypnotized, however, Peter gains all the confidence he needs to decide to “just stop going to” his job, but asks Joanna out and ends their evening together with an episode of “Kung Fu” (one of my favorite shows).

If you have not seen “Office Space,” I am not going to spoil it for you.  My parting notion about the movie is that it’s a case of art imitating life, and to Judge’s credit, he’s succeeded in making an outrageous movie that really hits close to home, without using any gross or infantile humor to do so.  The film puts the “corporate experience” in the spotlight and gives the viewer a chance to laugh at “the boss,” and maybe even a little bit at him or herself along the way.

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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