Review: “Office Space”
Produced by: Daniel Rappaport, Michael Rotenberg
Written by: Mike Judge
Edited by: David Rennie
Cinematography by: Tim Suhrstedt
Music by: John Frizzell
Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Diedrich Bader, John c. McGinley, Joe Bays, Alexandra Wentworth, Richard Riehle
Based on the Milton animated shorts by Mike Judge
Funny story about this movie and me: There was a time when I had only ever seen the beginning of this movie, and then, for a time, also only the ending, but never the middle. I always managed to catch this playing on TV at some inopportune moment when I would never be able to finish it or when it had already been on for a while and was just shy of wrapping up. (It’s actually the movie that has convinced me to never again let a TV viewing be my only means of watching a movie ever again.) Like Braveheart, this was one of those movies when people would stare at me blankly, mouths agape, and then ask for confirmation as to what I had just admitted: “You’ve never seen Office Space?!”
“Well… not all of it.” Then they would go on to quote the movie as if that was sufficient enough motivation. Knowing me and my mostly involuntary avoidance of movies that I have somehow missed seeing but other people insist I watch because I “just have to” before they then reference incessantly. Again, like Braveheart. I did get a chance to watch it, finally, my junior year of high school when an overnight stay with some friends while working on a project led to a break where I finally gave in to their insistence and had the opportunity to watch it properly on DVD… only to fall asleep early on thanks to the late hour.
Fast forward about six Office Space-free years, and a friend of mine at work learned that I had never seen the movie all the way through. Luckily, she did not insist upon throwing all the quotes I had already heard over the years in my face like everyone else and instead took action – for my birthday (Or was it for Christmas?), she gave me my very own copy of Office Space on DVD. Now I had no excuse. So, that weekend, I popped it in and… well, imagine my shock when I discovered that there was a whole story about hypnotism leading to apathy, leading to promotions, and then, finally, to a Superman III-inspired embezzlement scheme. Not a subplot – this was the plot! Basically, I went this whole time not actually knowing what this freaking movie was about, despite being already being completely over the hilarity of people always saying “That’s my stapler…”, “Yeah, I’m going to need you to…”, and “Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” It was possibly one of the happiest realizations in my life, and probably attributed to my liking this movie a lot more in the end.
That’s not to say that those plots are really all that important to the story of Office Space. The whole hypnotism thing is pretty much forgotten at some point and is largely just a catalyst for changing the miserable office drone mentality of the lead character, Peter Gibbons, into that of a cubicle-defying revolutionary, which then sets into motion that whole revenge plot to steal tiny fractions of cents over a long period of time from the company bank account.
Basically, Office Space is completely wish fulfillment for the underappreciated white collar desk jockeys of the first world who would be a bit more satisfied with their lives if they could just stick it to their passive aggressive, condescending bosses and destroy that printer that apparently suffers from a case of paper jam hypochondria (also a scene I was very familiar with before my actual viewing). Not that the less prestigious jobs are overlooked, however, as Peter begins to romance the lovely Joanna, a waitress at a restaurant chain that prides itself on its corporately mandated levels of manufactured fun. (“Pieces of Flair” was something I was also very aware of pre-viewing, thanks to everyone and their mother posting custom flair all over their Xangas and Facebooks. My DVD is also apparently the “with Flair!” edition.)
I do feel as though the movie could have succeeded as a film no matter what sort of plot director Mike Judge would have chosen for what has ostensibly become the most beloved and well known cult classic this side of Rocky Horror. So it’s a good thing that the jokes are, in fact, pretty funny, even those that you may get tired of hearing quoted in daily life from well-meaning friends (Did you guys not see the irony in asking me if I was suffering from a case of the Mondays all those times I was grumpy on a Monday?).
The actors are so good at embodying their characters, too – everyone from Ron Livingston as the former doormat Peter, to Gary Cole as the infuriating boss Bill Lumbergh, to Ajay Naidu and David Herman as Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton, whose names alone inspire stupid questions from others. Even Jennifer Aniston, an underrated comedic actress who doesn’t get nearly enough good work these days, nails the frustration of Joanna, who, like Peter, is constantly butting heads with perkier than necessary coworkers and bosses who set stupid expectations and who are then not happy when these are not then exceeded. Let’s also not forget Stephen Root as the mumbling sociopath Milton, whose animated shorts were the inspiration for the movie. Staplers are bound to be the symbol of the office worker uprisings thanks to this character.
One thing that I must clarify, however, is that, though this is a very funny movie, it’s not necessarily the greatest comedy film ever. I understand why it has inspired so much fandom, despite being a bomb in theatres, but I honestly do not understand the often ridiculous obsession with it. Perhaps my tempered reception was due to the fact that I had already watched or had begun watching the later and better TV series The Office (both UK and US flavors) before having watched this movie that I just didn’t appreciate it the same way. (At least I didn’t always ask if The Office was a spinoff like some people…) Perhaps its fans had actually managed to plant a seed of resentment in me that had not yet managed to germinate within me the way that my admittedly irrational resentment towards Braveheart did. Office Space is a good movie, however, and a sufficiently funny one that I was more than happy to find out that I could still enjoy on its own merits, divorced from fandom and often inaccurate comparisons. So, yeah, I’m totally grateful that someone managed to remind me that, while maybe not mandatory viewing, this was, in fact, absolutely worthwhile viewing.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3.5 / 5