Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Office Space

Office Space; satire, USA, 1999; D: Mike Judge, S: Ron Livingston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu, Jennifer Aniston, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, John C. McGinley

Peter has a terribly monotone and stressful job in a software company, and is increasingly anxious for having to work in cubicles. However, one day, a psychiatrist manages to hypnotize him and end his tension. Completely relaxed, Peter does not show up for work for days, and when he openly tells two downsizing consultants that he does not have any motivation for his work, instead of getting fired, he is promoted and his boss punished for not motivating employees. He even takes courage to take a waitress, Joanna, out for a date. Together with two employees who will get fired, Michael and Samir, he coins a software that will extract penny decimals of company's transactions to their account. Luckily, the company ends up in flames and thus they are not caught.

After his thin debut film "Beavis and Butt-Head Do America", Mike Judge surprised with his 2nd film that reversed his cheap humor, the intelligent "Office Space", which is a grand satire on corporatism and the toll of stressful jobs on employees. From the opening - where the hero Peter is waiting in his car in an endless traffic jam, then switches to the right track because the cars are moving there, only to find out that his "new" track has now stopped, while his "old" track started moving as soon as he left it - is a brilliant introduction of the "cursed" little worker who finds endless plight surrounding even the path to his humiliating job, while the movie works and grows thanks to clever observations and quietly hilarious humor originating from the work environment in which people are treated as cattle - the highlight is probably the funniest joke, where consultant Bob informs the boss that one meek employee, Milton, "was fired five years ago, but no one ever told him about it; but through some kind of glitch in the payroll department, he still gets a paycheck". There is something true to this storyline, and one can sense it. One great way of escapism is provided after Peter finally manages to relax after years of stress, and completely turns his behavior upside down in one subplot. The last third of the film is the weakest, since it abandoned the theme of work and went on to an obscure software heist scheme that leads nowhere, thus diminishing the overall effect. Nonethless, despite various omissions, this forerunner to "The Office" is a therapeutic essay on work many can identify with, and a tribute to anyone who ever had a job he/she did not like.


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