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Office Space (1999)
- Favorite Movies 1990s (#24)
Office Space is a 1999 American comedy film satirizing work life in a typical 1990s software company. Written and directed by Mike Judge, it focuses on a handful of individuals fed up with their jobs portrayed by Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, and Diedrich Bader. The film's sympathetic depiction of ordinary IT workers garnered a cult following within that field, but also addresses themes familiar to white collar employees in general. Shot in Las Colinas and Austin, Texas, Office Space is based on Judge's Milton cartoon series. It was his first foray into live action film and second full length motion picture release. The promotional campaign for Office Space featured the familiar Beavis and Butt-head tagline 'Work Sucks', reinforcing Judge's debut in the animated Beavis and Butt-head Do America. While not a box office success, the film sold well on DVD and VHS. Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a disgruntled programmer at Initech, a software company plagued by bureaucracy and excessive management. He spends his days "staring at his desk" instead of reprogramming bank software to be Y2K-compliant.
Straight from Swingers, Ron Livingston makes a surprisingly good Everyman as Peter, so sick of his job ('In a week, I'd say I do 15 minutes of real work.') that he goes to a hypnotherapist for relaxation treatment. Of course (and the trailer doesn't tell you this), the therapist dies while Peter is under, leaving him in an ultra-relaxed state without a care in the world. (What's particularly funny is that Office Space was shot in high-tech ghetto north of my old hometown of Austin, Texas, where the 'go-getter' attitude is severely frowned-upon.)
Anyway, after the therapy, Peter has a whole new outlook on work. But oddly, Peter soon goes from apathetic to outright seditious, all while imminent downsizing is about to take place. This culminates in a silly subplot lifted from Superman III (they say so right in the movie!) about stealing fractions of pennies from the company.
That Peter gets a new girl (Aniston) in the bargain is foregone conclusion. That plenty of apropos, out-of-place wackiness is included, courtesy of Judge, is also a given.
Now I'm not a killjoy. I've had lots of jobs that are very much like Initech's idiocracy. Sadly, I'm afraid that too many people are going to genuinely take Judge's advice and try to get promoted by sleeping in and being lazy. While the underlying message is sound (Don't take work too seriously: It's just a job!), Judge might have been wise to preface the film with the same message given on episodes of B&B: 'Don't try this at home.'
UPDATE: No idea what was wrong with me here. Must have been in a bad mood that day. I put too much emphasis on the Superman story and not enough on the little things that have made Office Space such a classic. Bad brain, bad! I could set the building on fire...
Fanatics will want to check out the Special Edition with Flair which includes eight deleted scenes and a retrospective featuring most of the cast and Judge about the making of the film. Clips from Judge's original 'Milton' animated shorts are also included in the retrospective.
Livingston gets livid.