Office Space

My Rating:

A workin' man's comedy of rebellion and success with adolescent appeal.

Bitable Bytes:
"...Love That Movie!"
"The Plot [Is] Functional!"
"Mockery of Worklife, U.S.A.!"

What to do while watching:
You can enjoy some vicarious thrills by identifying with the protagonist.

What to eat while watching:
Almond butter on toast.

Did you ever see How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying? I used to love that movie! There was something so twisted about its protagonist, young J. Pierpont Finch (Robert Morse). He was a mail-clerk who used various dirty tricks to rise to the top of a retail corporation. There was a cool, modern 60's look to it, and Bob Fosse's choreography was peppy and angular. Something about it really captured my imagination as a pubescent boy...years before I graduated college and entered...The WORKFORCE! Three years as a temp and many after that as a perm in a nine-to-five situation made me forget the glorious rebellion, the inside conspiracy that so thrilled me as a lad.

So opening a Pandora's Box of repressed fantasy such as Office Space took me several years--it was released in 1999. And it's fine that I waited, because there's something ageless in the puerile, unreal farce that is Mike Judge's film. Like HtSiBwRT, Office Space is set in the immutable realm of Office. Sure the steno pool is gone, the mimeograph is replaced by copiers, the air-tube things are now fax machines; but the office grind is a place out of time, an unchangeable construct of the corporate capitalist world.

Our hero Peter (Ron Livingston) is a drone in a cubicle, and he's miserable. His girlfriend is cheating on him, he's stressed out, and his life has all the color of a rain cloud at night. His boss is a manipulative, quintessentially creepy guy who always makes Peter work weekends. This all made me feel a lot better because even on my worst days as a drone, I never had to live with each and every last aspect of office drudgery exaggerated to this degree, plus a raggedy personal life on top of it all.

What else can Peter do but see a psychologist? The fat doctor puts Peter under hypnosis and makes him happy, just so Peter can see what it feels like not to have a care in the world. Then, in a very Beavis-and-Butthead plot device, the shrink has a heart attack and dies. This leaves Peter pleasantly content with life, and all aspects of it, including the doctor's death.

Happy as he is, he doesn't go into work on the weekend. In fact, he decides not to work any more at all. So when two management-enhancement consultants enter the company with the multi-task of empowering a downsizing strategy procedure...well, Peter's nominal job seems imminently doomed. Fine with him. But that's when the switcheroo occurs. Peter's frankness convinces the consulting guys that he's the only honest, capable person on the entire staff, so they promote him and lay off his two buddies who have been working overtime to avoid being fired. Nutty, huh? But isn't that just life, sort of?

Not leaving his homeboys in the lurch, Peter steals the feisty fax machine from work, and together they beat the hell out of it in a field. It's the most characteristic scene of the film: three geekily dressed guys go mobster on an office product to a hard-hip-hop song. Find it intriguing? Then this movie is for you! After their HP slaughter, the three concoct a scheme to subtly bilk the company so they can continue to live without working.

Meanwhile, Peter's love life has drastically improved. No longer with the cheat, he comes onto Jennifer Aniston, the movie star. Just kidding, it's actually Aniston playing a waitress at a T.G.I.Fridayís rip-off. Her working there gives Judge the opportunity to also mock the stupidities of food-service work. But he forgot the obligatory 'Happy Birthday' version that waiters are required to sing a few times a day to customers who are pretending to be celebrating so they can have a free ice cream. Anyway, Peter and, uh, Jennifer, hit it off and develop a romance with just a few potholes in it. That's potholes, not plot holes.

As for the plot, it does the functional work of giving structure to the mockery of Worklife, U.S.A. We see the uncomfortable, stifled office celebration; the malfunctioning office machinery; the boss-weasels and their machinations, and the lowest of the low: the office dweeb. In a spotlight role, a homely actor does a fair embodiment of Ernie Kovaks' old character, Percy Dovetonsils. For any who remember that lisping poet, you'll be astonished at how close the voice is to Martin, the office dweeb.

Basically a silly romp, Office Space will be a pleasant jaunt for any who have been there. And don't forget that Fridays are dress-down days.

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For your collection: Office Space (DVD), How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (VHS)

Gooden's Listening To: Johnny Paycheck's Take This Job and Shove It. Okay, that's a lie. I don't own the album, but I just thought of it while on this theme. I remember loving that song, and the movie of the same title, back when I was fourteen.

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