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Office Space

Three fingers


The Filthy
Critic says:
"It's not so
fucking bad!"

I'm just a lowly gas jockey. I flunked my civil service test, they say because I used too many fucking cuss words, so they won't even let me deliver your mail to you. I am not worthy of one of them fancy jobs in an air-conditioned office, sitting on my ass in a cubicle playing solitaire on a computer. "Office Space" is about miserable office workers, a world I do not understand. However, I get the message that it's about ramming the rod of justice up the MAN's ass, and that's something we can all relate to, from kindergartner to retired old fart.

I believe that if we all work together, we can shove it so far up our boss' asses that it'll come out their mouths. "Office Space" makes an effort at getting even, gets a few laughs along the way, and ultimately lets down the working class.

Ron Livingston is a typical dweeb cube-dweller who pines away for the waitress (Jennifer Aniston) at the theme restaurant next door, but who is miserable with his brainless, bureaucratic office job. Through a hypnotherapy accident, he finds the strength to tell his boss to take the job and stick it where the sun don't shine and poop comes out of.

Livingston starts slacking on the job, much like a certain mechanic at the Ralston Amoco who goes by the name "Gregory." Instead of getting fired, Livingston gets promoted. He also wins the affection and boning-rights of Aniston. Meanwhile, the hard-working dweebs in his office who have not benefited from hypnotherapy get canned.

Livingston is pissed about them getting screwed while he gets rewarded, and he's sick of his job. He comes up with a plan for stealing from the company that will pay him and his friends to never work again. When the scheme proves too successful and they steal too much money, they are sure to be caught. Livingston decides to accept the responsibility and give himself up.

"Office Space" is designed to make all office workers think they are its everyman hero, and all the assholes are exactly like the assholes in their offices. They are stereotype assholes: the wishy-washy boss, the annoyingly upbeat secretary, the man in perpetual fear of getting canned. I don't work with these types of fuckwads, but I watch them get gas, yammer on their cellular phones, and fret over three-cent per gallon increases.

The jokes are funny and more than half work. They are almost exclusively about office shit: all the stupid fucking memos; all the fakeness; all the bullshit office workers have to put up with. The movie is much funnier than the lame-ass world "Dilbert" and "Cathy" cartoons because it acknowledges the true misery lurking under all those fluorescent lights (if you like Dilbert and/or Cathy, please leave and visit other web sites because you are not welcome here). Dilbert and Cathy joke about offices, but their authors are such pricks that they believe, deep down, we all love our jobs They aren't against office culture, they are for it. That's why Dilbert and Cathy bullshit is always hanging over Goddamned copy machines. And that's why the most annoying asshole in every office is always the biggest "Dilbert" fan.

While "Office Space" is more true, my biggest gripe is that the movie isn't ambitious enough. It says offices suck, but then it locks us into a miserable one for almost two hours. And it gives us main characters who are so uninspired and unmotivated that they don't offer us anything to cheer for. If there was ever any group that needed fantasy to escape their painful existences, it's office workers.

Office Workers don't want commiseration: they want the fucking tools for a rebellion.

We are supposed to cheer for Livingston for breaking out of the mold. How does he do this? By not wearing a tie. By taking down a cubicle wall. By coming to work late. We need more. We need him to start shooting assholes. We need him to bust his boss's legs. We need him to incite the masses.

Let's think a minute about what will happen to typical office losers after they see "Office Space". They leave the theater, get in their cars, they talk about how funny the movie was, they go to work after the weekend and nothing has changed. They are still fucking losers that hate their jobs. "Office Space" doesn't encourage them to make something better of their lives. "Office Space" doesn't change their perspectives. All it does is say, "Your life is a miserable failure." Laugh for two hours, get back to work.

If director Mike Judge wants to exploit this life, he needs to say more than "you all really suck." Just as when National Geographic wants to film naked pygmies in their natural habitat in Africa, they have a moral obligation to respect their needs and offer some sort of payment to them. Judge gives nothing back.

The directing is also rather stiff. It's Judge's first live-action film and he stages too much in the static, painful office. He handles Livingston's relationship with Aniston about as well as I would handle a relationship with Aniston: awkward, clumsy and treating her almost strictly as a sex object.

The basic plot is mechanical and trite, with very little humor coming from it. The jokes are about how shitty offices are, and about minor characters. Strip the office setting away and you have an incredibly lame, naked plot that couldn't stand on its own.

Livingston is good as the numb office worker. It's too bad that the character is too uninteresting to get us to cheer for him. I mean, Judge makes him just like every other cubicle dweller, and that's not really who I want to see a movie about. Aniston is confused in her role. She never is believable as a waitress and never really becomes her character. She's got a funny-looking chin, too.

Hey Kids, get Filthy's Reading, Listening and Movie Picks for this week.

Another problem is the blending of this "real" office culture with some characters that are nothing more than caricatures. While we are supposed to feel sorry for one sorry soul whose cubicle keeps getting downgraded, it is almost impossible because he feels like he should be in a cartoon, not this movie. The jokes don't work because we don't believe.

I admire Judge for two things. The first is for being observant and funny, and I hope he applies those skills to a more interesting topic next time around. The second is for showing some Cathy comic strips going up in flames at the end. Now, if the whole movie had that sort of gleeful destruction of office culture, I would have given it more than three fingers.

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