Office Space (1999)
February 19, 2018 2:36 PM - Subscribe

Three company workers who hate their jobs decide to rebel against their greedy boss.

NYTimes: Anyone who has endured work as a low-level cog in a corporate machine should appreciate the acute frustrations of the eager young beavers who rebel against the system in Mike Judge's moderately savvy satire ''Office Space.'' The comedy, the first live-action feature directed by the creator of ''Beavis and Butt-head'' and ''King of the Hill,'' distills the pettiness of office life in its sneakily savage portrait of a quintessential middle-management boss named Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole).

Puffed up with fake jocularity, Bill epitomizes the smiley, buck-passing, back-stabbing, passive-aggressive office dictator who fears and despises his underlings while prating nauseatingly about everybody being one big happy family.

Roger Ebert: "Office Space" is like the evil twin of "Clockwatchers." Both movies are about the ways corporations standardize office routines, so that workers are interchangeable and can be paid as little as possible.

"Clockwatchers" was about the lowest rung on the employment ladder--daily temps--but "Office Space" suggests that regular employment is even worse, because it's a life sentence. Asked to describe his state of mind to the therapist, Peter says, "Since I started working, every single day has been worse than the day before, so that every day you see me is the worst day of my life."

WaPo: "If there is a message to this movie," declares Judge in the movie's press notes, "then I have failed as a director."

But whether he wants to admit it or not, "Office Space" raises questions about society but backs out of answering them. The closest we get to wisdom is when Joanna advises Peter to find a job that suits him. Yeah, but what if no job suits him? What about the fact that work is truly awful and most of us hate it? Why should we have to do things we don't want to? What would happen to the world if we all stopped working? Enjoyable as it is, "Office Space" doesn't come to a conclusion so much as break for a commercial.

Den of Geek: Although critically acclaimed, Office Space was not as big a commercial hit as it deserved to be. Despite this, the film's release couldn't have been timed more perfectly.

Office Space was released just as DVD technology was becoming increasingly prevalent. People who discovered the film were able to share the experience with their friends, thus creating one of the first truly cult classics of the DVD era, also helped by the film's seemingly endless broadcasts on US comedy networks.

Office Space has since taken on a life of its own. Highlights from the film have been referenced in all kinds of media, from World Of Warcraft commercials to Family Guy parodies.

In many ways, Office Space serves as the perfect follow-up to Mike Judge's slacker masterpiece Beavis And Butthead. A heady mix of the surreal and the understated, Beavis And Butthead accurately reflected the growing apathy and narcissism of its Gen X audience, who would much rather sit on the couch all day mocking Pavement videos than entertain any real life concerns.


The Printer

TPS reports get cover sheets
posted by MoonOrb (22 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder what this movie would have been if it had been delayed even by six months.
posted by rhizome at 2:57 PM on February 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Excuse me. You-- I believe you have my stapler?
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I recall feeling simultaneous and equal parts glee and annoyance with this movie. Peter provided the vast majority of the annoyance (the douchebro was the other bit, and that Peter had a remote chance with Aniston's character, and Milton being treated shabbily, and the reverence for 'Kung Fu' [I have a pet peeve with Carradine in that]), everything else was gleeful.

In retrospect, the "pound you in the ass prison" is problematic.
posted by porpoise at 3:32 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I once let my co-workers re-enact the printer scene with a sledge hammer, a crow bar, and printer we were going to throw out. To this day, I'm pretty sure I'm still a legend as the best shift supervisor ever.
posted by TwoStride at 3:36 PM on February 19, 2018 [14 favorites]

This is the Dilbert of movies.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:12 PM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Surely there's a German word for good art from bad people (so to speak).
posted by rhizome at 6:27 PM on February 19, 2018

It's definitely uneven, could have used another re-write or two. But highly quotable, and it just felt so much like, "Yes! Yes, this is what my damned life is like!" at the time.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:28 PM on February 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I once let my co-workers re-enact the printer scene with a sledge hammer, a crow bar, and printer we were going to throw out.

Once I watched some workers from another office in the building I was working in destroy a printer with a morningstar on the top of the adjoining parking deck. It was great, and the toner stains remained for months. They may still be there.
posted by asperity at 8:07 PM on February 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

at the time

This is kind of the whole thing for me. It's an amazing document of a particular style of job at a particular period of time, a period that this movie came out at the very end of.
posted by rhizome at 8:27 PM on February 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

rhizome - I think that you just nailed it.

Throw in "location in the USA" into "at that time" and it might be an even stronger thesis.
posted by porpoise at 8:37 PM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I, too, joined colleagues who dragged a dead printer out into a park behind our office and beat it to glorious smithereens with a baseball bat we had (which saw previous action in being used for Pager Baseball). It was everything it should have been.
posted by sldownard at 1:43 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

My favorite tidbit of info about this film is that Swingline didn't even make red staplers at the time, but the movie created such a demand for them, that Swingline added one to their catalog and it became their best selling item.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:44 AM on February 20, 2018 [16 favorites]

So I tried to watch this in . . . 2008, maybe? Back when I was working as a temp, spending my time folding paper so someone else can stuff envelopes because they hadn't pushed the automated system through corporate bullshit yet. The job market was so horrible for college grads that I felt lucky to even have that much, in a half-cube with someone else's name plaque on it (Wilhemina Henderson). Three months of my first Minnesota winter, working in a basement with no windows and a revolving door of other temps.

So that was my office job when I first watched this movie. My work situation was so bizarre and awful that none of the jokes really landed and the entitlement and douchebroness was really distracting.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

It was definitely a movie of its moment, that moment being the one where DVD players were just becoming widely adopted, and this particular DVD was everywhere.
posted by asperity at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

It's very much like Idiocracy in that there are some sharp observations larded in with really stupid stuff. Peter gets a job shoveling what's left of his old workplace into dumpsters, glorying in the blue-collar life while he's exposing himself to who knows how many toxic chemicals in the process. The movie as a whole was basically made to pad out some animated shorts of Milton and his stapler that Mike Judge began his career with. But there are bits that still stick; the whole thing with Tchotchke's and their flair, for example, reminded me of when my workplace would have their annual employee motivational thing, and we all got a pin that we had to stick onto our ID badges, and were supposed to wear it for the full year, and then the next year there was something else--a ribbon, I think.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:05 PM on February 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Attacking the cubicle with the power screwdriver was, for me anyway, the most iconic moment. I definitely worked in my career with a number of older engineers who were very defensive of their proprietary knowledge domains and constantly worried they could be obsolesced. And several of my IT positions were with consultant-space companies whose whole raison d'etre was doing just that. Definitely a zeitgeist film which hit the bullseye despite tonal shifts and slack story and dialog areas.
posted by dhartung at 11:31 PM on February 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

"It would be nice to have that kind of job security."
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

We watched this on the last day for three downsized people in our department. Talk about a weird vibe.

And can we talk about how brilliantly versatile Stephen Root is?
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:15 PM on February 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

He will always be Jimmy James to me.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:38 PM on February 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I remember watching this film and being amazed not just by the commuting scene where Peter goes down the road slower than the old man on the walker, but the scene where he hesitates to touch the doorknob because of the inevitable static electrical shock. I delighted in telling friends: I want to laugh at this film, but I can't!

And in regards to radwolf76's comment above: I just started a new job last week, and I was delighted to find out that the front counter is equipped with red Swingline staplers.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 1:49 PM on February 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Oral Histories -, Rolling Stone, The Ringer
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:10 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

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