Office Space (1999)

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Movie Review
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Office Space (1999)

Director: Mike Judge

Starring: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole

Those who’ve found their true calling in life are very lucky. Others meander from one job to the next, never feeling truly satisfied or even respected. The best of them shrug it off and except each paycheck with a fake smile. The worst become unhinged to the point of threatening to set the building on fire.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a computer software programmer working for the uncaring corporation Initech. Above all, Peter hates his boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). Lately, every passing day to him has felt like the worst day of his life. He’s even begun to suspect that his girlfriend, Anne, is cheating on him. His friends get that feeling, too. Anne drags Peter to an ‘occupational hypnotherapist’ who promptly drops dead of a heart attack right after hypnotizing Peter. Newly relaxed, Peter seems to have an easier time shrugging off all of that which previously troubled him. He has no reaction to the message left on his answering machine by Anne, informing him that she has in fact been cheating on him, and completely ignores the dozen or so messages Lumbergh leaves, each pressing Peter for an answer as to why he hasn’t come in to work on the weekend as he was asked to do. Peter would much rather sleep in.

One thing that Peter is very much in doing is asking out Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a waitress at Chotchkie’s (think T.G.I. Friday’s). He invites her to lunch at a rival restaurant, and discovers that they share a loathing for their jobs as well as an interest in the TV series “Kung Fu.” Come Monday morning, Peter does finally return to work. At this time, Initech has brought in two men, both named Bob, to help with the company’s personnel evaluation (i.e. to help decide which employees should be fired). Peter’s friends Samir Nagheenanajar and Michael Bolton are among those on the chopping block, whereas Peter’s straight-shooting attitude gets him promoted instead of being fired. Life’s unfair that way. But Peter, being the corporation-hating, loyal friend that he is, devises a scheme to get back at their employers. A computer virus designed by Michael will steal fractions of pennies from Initech and place them into an account, building up to a nice sum of money over a long period of time. Only problem is that Michael screws it up, and the account has drawn a few hundred thousand in a few short days, and now the question comes to how to deal with it. Do you try to dig a deeper hole by trying to cover your tracks, or do you bite the bullet and confess?

“Office Space” is full of interesting and hilarious characters. Chief among them is Bill Lumbergh. He’s the quintessential annoying boss. His slow, monotone delivery makes each line of dialogue instantly quotable. Peter’s neighbor Lawrence, who shouts through the wall to get Peter’s attention whenever there’s a naked woman on television, is also a hoot. The mumbling Milton (Stephen Root) whose desk keeps getting moved despite his objections, although a secondary character here, was originally the focus of a series of four animated shorts by Mike Judge, upon which “Office Space” was based. Despite his meek, wimpy appearance (which includes coke bottle glasses), Milton may be the angriest person working at Initech. It’s always the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Mike Judge himself plays Joanna’s condescending boss. He seems to be of the belief, as it concerns the restaurant business, that ambiance takes precedent over the quality of the food. He wants Joanna to show that she knows how to express herself, and it’s only through her relationship with Peter that Joanna develops the courage to do so.

An interesting choice was made in the movie’s soundtrack, which is composed of mostly gangsta rap. Two songs by Geto Boys represent the most memorable tracks. “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” plays while Peter is returning to work after fudging on his weekend responsibilities, and “Still” plays while Peter, Samir and Michael steal and then take out their frustrations on a faulty office printer that had been plaguing them throughout their time at Initech. The “printer scene” has since been parodied/re-enacted on TV’s “Family Guy.”

Mike Judge has been entertaining audiences for years on the small screen with such animated series as “Beavis & Butt-head” and “King of the Hill,” the former having made a brief return in the 2010’s after an almost 15-year absence. With “Office Space,” Judge created an instant cult classic. With a running time of less than 90 minutes, it features a fast-paced plot, one which is pure fantasy. There’s no way you can behave as these characters do and not expect to face dire consequences. Because of this, one can hardly be expected to find a moral lesson anywhere. If you had to pick one based on what you see here, it might be this: The way to get through the daily grind is by sifting through the rubble of your meaningless existence and finding the one thing that means the most to you.

  1. Saw this a few months ago and now have it on DVD. I love this film immensely! Great review. 🙂

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