Office Space (1999)

Directed by Mike Judge

Some movies find their success less on their skillful execution than on their choice of subject matter and approach.

Office Space is this kind of film. It’s popularity isn’t based on its being a good movie. Rather, it’s based on what it’s about. As movies go, Office Space is fair at best – not bad, but not particularly good either.

However, for the hundreds of thousands of office drones slogging their lives away in corporate cultures, it’s a kind of bromide. It’s a cathartic experience because its subject matter is the absurdities and bullshit of the business world.

The movie now, four years later, has a certain degree of cult status. (As I bought the disc the sales clerk began telling me how a friend of his quotes from the movie all the time. Everyone in the store was familiar with Office Space.)

Working every day in the same world the movie uses as its setting, I also identified with almost everything it touched on and no one who works in this world doesn’t dream the same dreams as the character blandly played by Ron Livingston.

To be fair to the film, it’s a satire and as such isn’t terribly concerned with its dramatic elements. But this is also why, as a movie, it’s ultimately only average at best. The satire isn’t tuned quite high enough. You can’t help but want a little something more to it – either a little more bite, or a bit more work on the dramatic elements, such as the relationship between Livingston and the character played by Jennifer Anniston. (She, it should be mentioned, is quite good in the film but certainly not challenged by the role.)

The movie is also a little confused when it comes to what it is about. Is it a caper movie? Or is it a satire about a guy who rises to the top by trying to get out? These are both present in the film, and either would be a solid storyline, but Office Space tries to manage both and thus doesn’t quite satisfy either.

One storyline tends to lend itself more to slapstick and romantic comedy, while the other is solidly satire. The muddle of these is ultimately why the film ends with a sense of something missing, of somehow having missed its mark.

Still, the movie is fun to watch and to repeat myself, if you’ve worked in this world (or are still there), you’ll find much of the movie enjoyably recognizable.

© 2002 Piddleville Inc.

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