Customer Review

70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decline and Fall of the Cubicle, November 13, 2005
This review is from: Office Space - Special Edition with Flair (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
I first watched "Office Space" on a laptop in a Tuscaloosa hotel with my future wife. We were on our way to a conference, and she suggested that we watch this movie. It wasn't too late in the evening, and the running time seemed reasonably short at approximately 90 minutes. I also figured that it would be pretty good, especially with Mike Judge as the writer and director. After having watched it several times since then, I am convinced that "Office Space" is one of the very best cinematic comedies made in recent years.

Watching "Office Space" seems especially therapeutic after dealing with craziness at work. This probably explains the film's broad appeal; it resonates with people who have needed to suffer bureaucratic B.S., the latest manifestations of "office speak," and arbitrary rules at some point in their working lives. Of course, Judge himself drew upon his own memories of work in an office, which he finally escaped after hitting upon the idea for "Beavis and B*tt-head." Although some people have criticized "Office Space" for not having enough "funny stuff," they don't seem to understand the subtlety of Judge's humor, which leans towards the dry and sardonic. One could almost imagine Billy Wilder feeling at home with the plot, though he might have needed a little extra nudging to include the gangsta rap songs.

With a cast that includes no "big-name stars" (except Jennifer Aniston), no central performer clamors for attention with cloying "hilarity." In fact, the quotidian nature of the characters actually enhances the humor. The characters in subordinate positions try to deal with inanities at work by stewing, fretting, and venting in private. Meanwhile, those with more power are content to reinforce the craziness because it guarantees their power, or because they are so entrenched in their positions that they don't recognize the arbitrary nature of the rules they enforce.

The characters are also funny because they remind me of people I have encountered throughout my life. Granted, they come across as caricatures to a degree, but the characters still seem more real than those conjured up for overly facile yuck-fests. In our own lives, many of us probably think that we are "normal," like the main character Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) or his girlfriend Joanna (Aniston). However, not everyone can be like Peter or Joanna... or at least our perceptions of them as "normal." Peter's sudden "transformation" into a quasi-Zen warrior, as well as Joanna's semi-stoner attitude, might just put them way outside the mainstream. In any case, I've seen enough people who share similarities with one, or even several, of these characters:

- Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole), Peter's passive-aggressive, narcissistic, and clueless Yuppie boss (complete with aviator glasses, power tie, and coffee mug) at Initech

- Michael Bolton (David Herman), Peter's nerdy coworker who just itches to unleash his internal Navy SEAL and gangsta

- Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu), Peter's resourceful coworker who wants to "make it" in America

- Lawrence (Diedrich Bader), Peter's no-nonsense, no-collar neighbor and de facto confidant at the thin-walled Morningwood Apartments

- "The Bobs" (John C. McGinley and Paul Willson), coldly congenial external consultants hired by Initech to figure out how the company can "cut costs"

- Tom Smykowski (Richard Riehle), the older Initech employee whose forced joviality barely disguises his anxiety about falling victim to The Bobs

- Stan (a well-disguised cameo by Judge himself), Joanna's flair-obsessed boss at the T.G.I. Friday's-like restaurant Chotchkies, which provides a non-office doppelgänger for Peter's work environment

And yes, I've seen a few people who remind me of Milton Waddams (Stephen Root), the put-upon office gnome with his barely audible stream-of-consciousness mumbling, coke-bottle glasses, outdated sense of non-fashion, and a passive-aggressive attitude matching that of Lumbergh (and that Lumbergh ultimately underestimates). Peter may be the story's main protagonist, but one could see Milton as an odd sort of antihero as well. His almost incoherent mumbling, mainly consisting of requests to clarify matters regarding his salary, his desk, and his red Swingline stapler, acts as a more personalized counterpoint to the double-talk and nonsensical policies that drive Initech. Albeit in extreme fashion, Milton also demonstrates that greed can only propel a business so far, and that an ultimate moral obligation to one's shareholders doesn't always pay off.

For "Office Space" aficianados, the "Special Edition with Flair" includes a 30 minute documentary that provides some insights into the making of the movie. Some of it might not seem like news to hardcore fans, but I learned a few new things: how Gary Cole came up with Lumbergh's voice; the "bons mots" Diedrich Bader improvised as Lawrence; how Stephen Root got around in thick glasses; where Ajay Naidu learned his dance moves; and the origin of the word a**clown. It also includes eight deleted scenes (some of which you might miss if you blink) and computer downloads. Alas, it does not include the animated "Milton" shorts created by Mike Judge in 1991, which provided the original inspiration for "Office Space." That's about as disappointing as excluding "Hearts of Darkness" from the "Apocalypse Now Redux."

Whether one gets "Office Space" with or without flair, I can guarantee a good laugh to anyone who has had to deal with any kind of work-related nonsense at some point in their lives. It might not change the world, but "Office Space" will probably remain an effective purgative for anyone who has encountered such situations. If nothing else, one can at least hope that the insights of "Office Space" will inform the ethics of up-and-coming managers, and make them prioritize the things that really should matter at work.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 20, 2013 5:15:42 PM PDT
Jet Cetera says:
Liked your review and will try the movie. Must advise you though, that most up and coming managers are drones who rarely if ever have an actual voice in anything.
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