Mike Judge | 86 mins | streaming (HD) | 1.85:1 | USA / English | 15 / R
“From the creator of Beavis and Butt-Head” is not a designation that’s going to help sell a film to many people anymore. That the same fella also went on to write and direct the mediocre Idiocracy does it no favour in my eyes, either. The man in question is Mike Judge, and his first live-action feature — this — quickly became a cult favourite, apparently beloved of IT guys and office workers in general everywhere. Well, one has to see what all the fuss is about, doesn’t one?
Office Space is, in its way, the story of Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a frustrated office drone. He agrees to go to a hypnotism session with his girlfriend to try to alleviate his stress. While under, he reaches a state of relaxation… so relaxed, he doesn’t even register when the hypnotherapist dies before bringing Peter out of his trance. In his state of newfound enlightenment, his honesty gets him a promotion at work, he finally asks out the girl at the local restaurant (Jennifer Aniston), and, when his IT friends are laid off, sets about scamming the company he works for.
So, there’s sort of a wish-fulfilment thing going on here, which must partly explain its popularity. It’s a film about low-level white collar workers, stuck in unfulfilling office jobs, having to do the repetitious and sometimes stupid bidding of the higher-ups — guys who don’t actually do anything, really, but will certainly get to keep their jobs when lay-offs are needed, even as the little guys who actually do the work get the sack. Wouldn’t it be great to find yourself in a position where you could stick it to Management?
In truth, the plot doesn’t quite fill the slight running time, and Judge doesn’t seem to quite know how to end it — clearly he doesn’t want his hero figure getting caught out, but it can’t just go on forever. Fortunately, this is a comedy, and so plot matters only so much if the rest is funny. In some respects it’s a story of “first world problems” — these guys have decent jobs, making decent money, but it’s boring — but at least it finds the humour in this. Little vignettes of office life, a mix of light satire and gentle surrealism, keep the amusement ticking over too.
I’m not about to sign up for the cult of Office Space, but it is a funny way to spend a brisk under-90-minutes — more “quite amusing” than “laugh-out-loud funny”, though. As it’s now 17 years old, you also have to wonder if it’s a bit of a time-capsule for a passed era.
This review is part of 1999 Week.