Starring-Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston
Scott’s Review #811
Reviewed September 16, 2018
Having become somewhat of a cult classic since its theatrical release in 1999, Office Space is delightful to watch for anyone who works in a corporate environment- or ever has- they will undoubtedly “get” this movie. The dark humor and antics may be lost on those who have not, but for the rest of us, the film is quite the treat. One may never view a stapler or the common office cake party in the same manner. Yes, the story and characters are somewhat over-the-top, but more than a few clever scenes ring with truth. But over time will the film become dated?
Writer and Director, Mike Judge, carves a story about life within a 1990’s software firm. Reportedly, the story is based on Judge’s cartoon series Milton, and his first foray into live-action film making. His first film was Beavis and Butt-Head Do America (1996) if this gives any indication of the type of humor that resounds. Fraternity boy minded, yes, but the writing is crisp and oftentimes rife with fun. The film was not a box-office smash at the time of release yet is well regarded by critics.
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a frustrated IT programmer who works for a company named Initech. Alongside two colleagues, one of whom is comically named Michael Bolton (not that Michael Bolton), they despise their sneaky boss, Lumbergh (Gary Cole). The situation gets worse when two consultants are brought in to downsize the company, leaving everyone in panic mode. After a failed hypnotherapy session Peter becomes relaxed and confident, even winning praise from the consultants and scoring a promotion. This puts him at odds with Lumbergh, especially after he begins dating a waitress, Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), and assumes she has also slept with him.
Office Space shines the most with the crackling dialogue and clever scenes that take place within the confines of the office. With stuffy cubicles for miles and the standard corporate jargon to make into witty lines, the subject matter is ripe for the picking. With Cole’s sly requests for his employees to work weekends, Judge creates an authenticity and freshness that is incredibly appealing to corporate workers. He successfully knocks down the office politics with intelligent, wisely crafted, memorable satire.
In the supporting role of Milton Waddams, character actor Stephen Root is successful at stealing the show with his mumbling and bumbling character. Nearly invisible to all his colleagues, Milton is eventually moved to a basement desk and left out of the cake party. When somebody borrows his prized red stapler, all hell breaks loose. Increasingly disgruntled, Milton’s fate is instrumental to the hilarious conclusion of the film and he ultimately gets his revenge in satisfying fashion to all.
The romantic element between Peter and Joanna is okay, but not at all the highlight of the film. In fact, the romance seems unnecessary to me, but undoubtedly added since comedies of this sort usually require something heartfelt to appeal to mainstream audiences. Aniston, popular at the time for her role on the television show Friends, was on her way to becoming a marquee movie star, but not quite yet, so she must be content with the standard “girlfriend” role. She’s cute, but hardly anything more.
Office Space (1999) is a fun ride, but the film is not a groundbreaking experience in great film techniques, inventive ideas, or any other technical or story achievements. What it offers to fans, it does very well and feels like a breath of fresh air in its genre. The film is a comedy, but not a dumb comedy as a myriad of similar style offerings have been released since the beginning of cinema. With the witty one-liners and comic gold, Office Space is a film to be remembered.