Office Space: an appreciation

In anticipation of Mike Judge's upcoming film Extract, Mark salutes his finest hour...

Well, you don't need a million dollars to do nothing, man

For anyone anywhere that works or has ever worked in an office, Office Space speaks out to every single one of us.

It’s got the ridiculous company policies, the tech that doesn’t work, the really annoying co-worker. Moreover it addresses the general sense of tedium we have all suffered at some point in our working lives. And it’s bloody hilarious.

From Ron Livingston’s pitch perfect portrayal of a software engineer losing his will to live to Gary Cole’s weasel of a company boss Bill Lumbergh, everybody here is on top form and gracious in their performances, not taking centre stage unless it’s warranted.

For the uninitiated, Office Space is a relatively simple tale of what happens when the workforce decide they’ve had enough. Peter Gibbons (Livingston) is bored out of his skull but stressed about being laid off as part of his company’s latest shake-up. After visiting an occupational hypnotherapist (played by Mike McShane) to calm him down and release him from his depression, he’s the unfortunate bi-product of said therapist dying of a heart attack during his session, leaving him in a half state of self-awareness. His new-found joy for life leaves him to decide to ignore his girlfriend – who promptly dumps him – ignore his boss and basically do nothing. Nothing at all.

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Far from his life spiralling downwards, he begins to get noticed more at work, gets promoted over his friends and gets a new girlfriend – an early film role for Jennifer Aniston. Things are going well for Peter but events take a turn for the worse when his two friends, Michael Bolton (at pains to point out his distaste for his name) and Samir, get the sack and the three take drastic measures to get the company back.

At once a subtle statement on how offices are run throughout the world over – how do people get promoted over others without demonstrating the slightest ounce of being any more capable – and also a cartoonish take on life in the working world, it’s a perfect marriage of a great script and a cast to match. It speaks volumes that an actor of Gary Cole’s stature doesn’t stand out here, and that’s because there is no standout performance. This is a true ensemble cast, each proving their worth. 

The majority of the very funniest parts of Office Space lie in the little things – annoyances with printers leading to the movie highlights shown below.

Watching that clip of the three destroying a printer never fails to cheer me up. It’s a brilliantly conceived and executed comedic set piece with David Herman (Bolton) deserving particular credit and it’s little wonder that it’s been parodied to death on YouTube.

Mike Judge has always demonstrated a keen eye for the common man and Office Space is undoubtedly his masterpiece. I doubt he’ll ever better it so for now we can just sit back and reflect on this glorious work.

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Ed.: We’ve managed to track down the short cartoon on which a couple of the characters were based. They may look different from their live action versions, but you’ll recognise their lines sure enough. Apologies for the quality. It’s a rare bit of a beast to find: