Office Space is the first live-action feature film by Mike Judge, comedic genius/creator of Beavis & Butthead (for those of you born after 1990, King of the Hill). It remains the most painfully accurate portrayal of life in a cube farm ever created.
Although inspired by a Mike Judge comic strip about a lonely cube-dweller named Milton whom nobody ever seems to notice, the movie Office Space revolves around Peter Gibbons, a drone at the fictional software firm Initech, and his two friends and coworkers Samir and Michael. They lead lives of quiet desperation updating code for the Y2K changeover, their days marked by endless repetition of mindless tasks, battles with sentient office equipment, and an ever-rising urge to murder their coworkers right in the face. Peter, especially, has realized: "Ever since I started working, every single day of my life has been worse than the day before it. So that means that every single day that you see me, that's on the worst day of my life."
Pictured: Bill Lumbergh, the Ur Bad Boss. Not pictured: Peter's soul, dying a little death.
After a mishap at an occupational hypnotherapist's office leaves Peter in a permanent state of complete relaxation, things start to look up for him. He lets his shrewish girlfriend dump him (she WAS cheating on him), and he grows balls enough to finally talk to the hot waitress over at Chotchkie's. He wears comfortable clothes to the office, goes fishing and watches kung-fu with his new girlfriend (the hot waitress over at Chotchkie's), parks in his boss's space, and knocks down a cube wall so he can see out the window. His new-cool confidence and honesty impress Initech's efficiency experts, who promote him while letting slip that Samir and Michael will be downsized.
"COCKGOBBLERS," spits Michael, when Peter tells him of his impending layoff. Outraged that Initech has wasted years--YEARS--of their mid-twenties, Peter and Michael resolve to put Michael's latent nefarious plot into action: a virus that will sneak into the bank code they've been updating, round off fractions of cents from thousands of transactions every day, and deposit them into a private bank account. They can quietly steal from the company for years without it being noticed. It's a scheme that Michael acknowledges is basically the plot from Superman 3.
Samir knows the bank software best, and they pull him into the conspiracy by promising that even if they get caught, they'll go to white-collar prison, where you're allowed conjugal visits. After being assured that during conjugal visits, you get to have sex with women, Samir agrees to the plan and the three swing into action, putting the worm into Initech's system in a beautifully filmed slow-motion sequence that rivals those in any real-gangster film (as opposed to a nerd-gangster film). Michael and Samir are laid off, but they leave secure in the knowledge that they've screwed Initech and that the frakking fax machine will never cause another aneurism.
"Your mom p.c.'s my load letter! She p.c.'s it ALL NIGHT LONG!"
Peter's relationship with Joanna (the hot waitress at Chotchkie's) begins to unravel when he tells her about what they've done--she does not approve, because as everyone knows, women have no vision--and the relationship completely dissolves when Peter accuses her of having slept with Lumbergh. Add to that the fact that Michael made a mistake in the code, resulting in the bank account containing hundreds of thousands of dollars when it should contain only tens of dollars, and you have the makings of The Part of the Movie Where Everything Sucks.
Without spoiling the ending for the 11 of you who haven't seen the movie, things get resolved via a Milton Ex Machina and everybody learns a valuable lesson--if you had a million dollars and didn't have to work, the most reasonable thing to want to do is two chicks at the same time. Fuckin' A.
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston):
An Everyman computer programmer looking for something to inspire him in life, Peter has eight bosses and forgets to put the cover sheets on his TPS reports. He is suspiciously handsome for a computer programmer. Peter loves kung-fu movies and cherishes a life-long dream of doing nothing, nothing at all, all day.
Michael Bolton (David Herman):
This one shot of him looking into the camera might actually be the single funniest moment in the whole movie.
A slightly nerdier computer programmer, frustrated equally by the office fax machine and by sharing a name with "that no-talent ass-clown," Michael refuses to go by Mike because "Why should I change? He's the one who sucks." Michael loves hard-core rap but is slightly uncomfortable around black people. Although technically a free man, he hasn't had a conjugal visit in six months.
Samir Nagheenanajar (Ajay Naidu):
A nebulously Middle-Eastern computer programmer, Samir is reluctant to break the law until promised some sweet, sweet tail. He hates the fax almost as much as Michael does. Samir is a creative curser, quick to lay blame and secretly a fantastic dancer.
Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole):
Lumbergh is an amalgamation of all the worst bosses in all possible worlds, including both Jabba and George Lucas. He's condescending; he's smug; he has a raging sense of self-importance and (no doubt) some scorching coffee breath. He has an endless supply of questionable suspender-tie combos and a complete lack of self-awareness. He's the kind of man who has vanity plates on his Porsche that read "MY PRSHE." He's the kind of boss who'll talk to you like you're a learning-disabled 8-year-old while simultaneously criticising and benefitting from your work. He's the kind of boss who brings you in on a Saturday, and then on Sunday too, to make up for the people he just laid off. And you just know he probably thinks he's the best boss ever. In Peter's words, "He represents all that is soulless and wrong." Lumbergh is the boss you either have now, have had in the past, or fear one day having.
The Bobs (John C. McGinley and Paul Willson):
The Bobs are efficiency experts brought in by Initech to help streamline the company. These are the men who will be firing you today, but not before they've made you completely debase yourself by agreeing that Michael Bolton's music is pretty damned good.
Annoying Background Characters Nina (Kinna McInroe) & Female Temp (Jennifer Jane Emerson):
Not a single photo of Kinna McInroe in character as Nina to be had. She doesn't look annoying here, she just looks nice. You have failed me, Google Image Search.
Simply put, these women are the reason people work from home, or the reason people occasionally ventilate their offices with shotguns. If you're hearing "CORporate Accounts Payable Nina speaking. JUST a MOment" in your head right now, good luck getting rid of it. Try spreading it to others for fun and profit.
Tom Smykowski (Richard Riehle):
Smykowski is Peter in 25 years; he's the man who's worked a job he hates at the expense of his dreams. When Smykowski is laid off, he attemps suicide but is saved at the last minute by his wife. He is immediately hit by a truck and wins a settlement that allows him to pursue his crappy dream of designing a Jump to Conclusions mat.
Drew (Greg Pitts):
Drew is every lies-through-his-balls shit-talking douchebag you have ever worked with. If you've never noticed a guy like this in your office, then congratulations, asshat! You're him.
Milton Waddams (Stephen Root):
Milton is the reason this movie exists in the first place. He was fired years ago, but nobody ever got around to telling him and, through a glitch in payroll, he keeps getting his paychecks. Milton spends most of the movie passive-aggressively resisting Lumbergh's passive-aggressive attempts to drive him out, but once the Bobs fix the accounting glitch...well...we won't spoil it for you. I'll, I'll burn down the building...
Joanna (Jennifer Aniston):
Joanna, realizing that Peter's right; her boss pretty much is Goebbels.
Beautiful, and into both kung fu movies and Peter, Joanna is Peter's perfect woman. While initially shocked by his announcement that he doesn't like his job and doesn't think he's going to go anymore, she becomes intrigued and then inspired, eventually gaining the courage to express herself and tell her boss what he can do with his flair.
Brian (Todd Duffey):
Brian works at Chotchkie's and is REALLY EXCITED ABOUT IT. He wears 37 pieces of flair and has twice as many teeth. You, the viewer, want to choke him immediately.
Mike Judge (Mike Judge):
Proving that white-collar bosses don't have the market cornered on douchebaggery, Stan, the manager at Chotchkie's, forces his employees to wear as much flair as possible while pretending not to force them to wear flair. He wants you to want to wear more flair, to express yourself. (also IT'S MIKE JUDGE!)
Steve (Orlando Jones):
No pictures of Orlando Jones in character as Steve? Okay Google Image Search, it is ON LIKE DONKEY KONG.
Steve shows up at Peter's door, selling magazine subscriptions with the story that he used to be addicted to crack. When the boys figure that he must know how to launder money, Steve confesses that he's actually an out-of-work software engineer and, now privy to the Superman 3 plot, blackmails Peter into buying subscriptions. Steve's is a brief appearance, but he's mentioned here because of the awesome way he pronounces the word "addicted."
Lawrence (Deidrich Bader):
Lawrence is Peter's next-door neighbor, who works in construction and finds it difficult to relate to Peter's tales of office woe. He communicates mainly by shouting through the wall. Lawrence (in direct contrast to Peter) is utterly content with his life; he has a bitchin' 'stache, is grateful for pseudo-porn and, given a million dollars, would do two chicks at the same time.
Considering Office Space's far-reaching impact on American office culture, and futher considering the even greater impact it has had on office nerd culture, it is a given that this list will feel incomplete for some of you. That's what the comments section is for, nerds.
Words and Catch Phrases:
Office Space is a really terrific movie. The pacing is excellent and the film never drags; it's a tight little 90 minutes and every single one of them is worth your full attention. The music, from hard-core rap to the trademark gong and flute of kung fu soundtracks, adds an extra-awesome layer to an already awesome story. Every single actor gives such a natural performance that you almost forget they're acting--even the big guys like John C. "Dr. Perry Cox" McGinley--and start to assume that they really are these office wonks and software geeks in real life. And the writing manages to be both completely normal and impressively hilarious; nobody captured the essense of Business-ese as well as Mike Judge until The Office came along six years later.
Two men enter, one man leaves.
There are a hundred little things that make repeated viewings worth your while. Did you notice...
What makes Office Space work is its honesty. Whether you've worked in the service industry or the white-collar world, you have run into these people in real life; you've had these conversations. If you know any software engineers, you have heard them say, without irony, "I'd say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual, work." It's on the doors at Cracked, for Pete's sake.
And despite the massive changes that have taken place in technology in the ten years since this movie was made, Office Space holds up today because some things never change: things like douchebag bosses, office weirdos, and coworkers you might consider going to prison for--but only white-collar resort prison, not Federal Pound-Me-In-The-Ass prison.
There was salt on the glass, big grains of salt!