Office Space

Office Space. 20th Century Fox 1999.

Before watching the movie:

From time to time I pass up a film, and it goes on to get big. Then I start thinking about seeing it, but the moment has passed, and I just run into references here and there. Happily, nobody’s quoted Office Space to me in pieces. Yet.

There comes a point when I decide I might as well see what I’ve been missing. I’m told it’s supposed to be popular among people who work in the kind of offices it’s satirizing, but I haven’t met anybody who likes it who does. Or that many people in general who work in cube farms, really. They seem to be a mistake of the 90s that is mostly filtered out of the system. Even on The Office it’s not that bad. On the other hand, I wish I could work in a cube farm at least for a while.

Anyway, people like this movie. I want to too.

After watching the movie:

Peter Gibbons fills space in a cubicle at Initech getting hassled over report coversheets by eight different bosses and shocked by door handles. His girlfriend convinces him to take hypnotherapy, and he receives the calm of total apathy about his job. He starts doing what he wants, when he wants, no longer coming in on Saturdays, or before lunch, or at all really. His new attitude gets noticed by the downsizing consultants… into upper management. Then he learns that his two best friends are going to be fired and outsourced, and hatches a plan for them to all get back at the company that’s using them up.  Also Jennifer Aniston doesn’t have enough flair.

Maybe I don’t associate with the right people, but it seems like the culture this movie is a response to is on its way out because of sentiment like this. I find the idea the first half of the story works with, that corporate culture rewards the traits it’s designed to stomp out of people, interesting, and would have liked to see it carry the movie more. I get the idea the plot was designed to serve the jokes, but after the first act neither the plot nor the jokes get adequate time, and just get in each other’s way until the end.

Half the characters are real, and half are flat “bad office” props. That’s not a bad thing, since most comedies have round leads and flat joke characters. At least none of the joke characters are in the main circle, which is sometimes a crutch of small group films. Meek, particular, put-upon Milton is fun, but everyone likes Lumbergh a lot more than I see in him. Lumbergh just does the same thing over and over, and while that’s part of his schtick, it gets annoying in a way that takes me out of the film, like a bad Saturday Night Live character they just keep bringing back.

This is a pretty good, at times heavy-handed satire on office life, and bad jobs in general. The best part of the movie runs on pure wish fulfillment, but it’s funny anyway.


Watch this movie: because it’s the next best thing to telling off your boss and quitting.

Don’t watch this movie: if you’ve got to finish up your TPS reports.

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