Office Space Reviews
Mike Judge's feature length films Idiocracy (2006) and Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996) are two of the funniest films I have ever seen in my life, and the former served as a key sign of his sense of both humour and political satire. In Office Space, he exercises a lot of social commentary. And though it may not be his funniest film, its satirical edge has no shortage of validity. Mike Judge's feature length films Idiocracy (2006) and Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996) are two of the funniest films I have ever seen in my life, and the former served as a key sign of his sense of both humour and political satire. In Office Space, he exercises a lot of social commentary. And though it may not be his funniest film, its satirical edge has no shortage of validity. Office Space is a film which isn't reliant on a story to carry the narrative. It's very much a simplistic film which depends on its general concept and themes to carry its plot. This means the feature is easy to watch, but it doesn't mean it is bereft of engaging the viewers in thought. Set in the context of an office and following the everyday occurrences of white-collar IT workers, Office Space is a film which audiences could easily sympathise with. The characters are everymen getting caught in up in common frustrating situations, starting in the film's intro credits where they struggle through a traffic jam and deal with the frustrations of lane congestion. This is but one of many of the issues viewers can sympathise with in Office Space as essentially the entire film is constructed out of everyday issues that nearly everybody should be familiar with. Since viewers can sympathise with the situations faced by the characters in a lighthearted comedy, the slow pace and simplistic premise do not prove too much of a problem. Admittedly there are moments that drag on and do not engage viewers, but with the work of an intelligent screenplay Mike Judge is able to achieve much with a small budget.
Presenting viewers with a realistic depiction of the office workplace, Office Space uses a lifeless atmosphere and intentionally generic characters to provide a variety of perspectives on the setting which all lead to the same basic level of frustration. As the film goes on, the script grows more intelligent in dissecting why such a workplace is far from efficient. When protagonist Peter Gibbons is left to justify why he shouldn't be downsized, he speaks the truth about the entire workforce in general: work is something that frustrates everybody to the point of having their mind numbed, and a lack of motivation in the workplace effectively ensures that employees will perform the bare minimum to maintain job security. This one scene is the most intelligently thought stimulating moment of the film, the endeavour of discussion regarding the idiotic management of the workplace. This political edge loosens in the second act when the feature becomes more focused on a scheme concocted by the main characters, and this is where it declines in interest. The political commentary still runs parallel to the story, but there is greater reliance left on the characters to carry the film at these moments. Since the characters are designed to be generic, the resulting effect is limited while the romantic subplot of the film doesn't offer much that is compelling. So Office Space isn't as engaging in its second half, but the easygoing nature of the production remains clear enough for viewers to still enjoy things.
Office Space also promotes Mike Judge's sense of stylish filmmaking in the live-action medium, even though it is a minor element of the production. After the intro, protagonist Peter Gibbons walks into an office wearing his grey shirt which makes him blend in with the monochromatic cubicle walls and desk tools around him, showing that Mike Judge is aware of what he is capturing in terms of imagery. Yet the most dominant aspect of Office Space's technical aspects is the perfection of its soundtrack. By notorious contrast to the white collar men in suits employed at the office, Office Space's soundtrack is composed of a collection of Gangsta Rap songs which were in their heyday during the 1990's thanks largely to popularization by N.W.A. The greatest two pieces are by Geto Boys: "Still" which plays out during the film's most iconic moment in which the characters aggressively destroy a malfunctioning fax machine like they're executing a gang beating, and "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" which is as perfect as it sounds. The former capitalizes on Mike Judge's eye for imagery by playing with different kinds of slow motion, Dutch angles and intense sound editing, making it the most stylish moment in the film.
And the cast of Office Space deliver a dedicated collection of performances.
Ron Livingston captures the natural persona of reluctance and frustration inhabiting every white-collar office worker. As the story progresses, he develops to the point of no longer caring about the workplace enough to even maintain job security and ends up acting in a way everybody in the real-life workplace desires to. He speaks the truth of the screenplay with a strong understanding of its relevance and does it with such confident flair that he makes an easily likable protagonist for Office Space. Ron Livingston captures the intentionally dull spirit of Office Space while maintaining enough restrained energy to transcend it enough to stand out from the other cast members without straying too far from the themes.
Gary Cole's performance in Office Space is nothing short of iconic. The man has had a long career in films with his finest work proving to be consistently in comedy roles, but he has never played a character as distinctive as Bill Lumbergh. With not even the slightest flair of emotion in his role, Gary Cole perfectly embodies the lifeless and soulless product of corporate management in Office Space. Hitched up in a suit and suspenders while always carrying around a coffee mug, Gary Cole captures the stiff movements of a statue to match his tone of line delivery on a physical level. And every time he ends his speeches with the line "That would be great" with blunt monotony, his blunt monotony is nothing short of hilarious for its plain accuracy.
Stephen Root also provides a very sympathetic character for the story. In the role of Milton Waddams, Stephen Root perfectly captures the bumbling nature of a character who has suppressed his frustrations for too long. Stumbling over all his words with an obsessively quiet voice volume, Milton Waddams appears to be a character of greater social awkwardness than anyone else around him and can't seem to grasp the intentions of others which leads to them taking advantage of him. It's hard not to feel sorry for him while his rambling words provide a funny character for the narrative, so Stephen Root stirs up sympathy and laughter with Office Space.
Catering to the stereotypes of the roles written for them, David Herman and Ajay Naidu manage to add strong supporting humour to Office Space. And even though Jennifer Aniston's role in the film is a subplot revolving around a rather dull romantic story, her natural persona fits the profile well while the fact that she played this role during her career heyday on the sitcom Friends (1994-2004) provides a contrast to her iconic character Rachel Green as she plays a far more intelligent character in Office Space.
Office Space may have minimal story and a slow pace, but the simplicity of its narrative is the cornerstone of its brilliance: it is packed with thought-provoking satire and social commentary, realistic characters and easygoing laughter.