Sharon Knolle Freelance Writer

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Published in The Rocket, January 13, 1999


REEL LIFE: Office Space

by Sharon Knolle
Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) hates his job, and with good reason: He works for the blandly evil Initech, makers of accounting software, and his particular brand of hell is to update the accounting code for Y2K. As he puts it to his developer buddies, all his hard work only goes to raising the owner's stock. Even worse, his manipulative, Porsche-driving boss (Gary Cole) thinks nothing of having Peter come in each weekend.

Thoroughly disillusioned and barely able to get up in the morning, he consults an "occupational hypnotherapist." Promptly after hypnotizing Peter into a state of worry-free bliss -- and before Peter snaps back to reality -- the therapist keels over dead. With a new, "Who me, worry?" outlook on life, Peter makes a plan to do what he wants to do: nothing. A recipe for unemployment, except that the two consultants who've come in to clean house find his work-avoidance lifestyle worthy of a promotion! When Peter finds out that his developer friends Samir and Michael Bolton (no, not that Michael Bolton) are about to get pink-slipped, he persuades them to exact a financially and emotionally rewarding revenge on Initech.

If you've ever worked a crappy corporate job (and who hasn't), you'll savor every moment of this office revenge comedy. With his first live-action film, animator Mike Judge exceeds all expectations. Far funnier than anything I've witnessed on the tolerably amusing scrawls that are Judge's Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill, Office Space had me in stitches throughout. Office sitcoms and satires have almost been done to death, but Judge's excellent pacing and witty observations (the inordinate fuss made over a report's missing cover sheet, for example), distinguish the film. Part of the reason Office Space works so well is great casting, from lead Ron Livingston, who inspires a John Cusack-like empathy, to a surprisingly likable Jennifer Aniston as the harried waitress Peter finally gets up the courage to ask out, and bit parts such as Peter's beer-guzzling neighbor. The only weak link in the film: the character who inspired the film, the ultimate dweeb Milton, as played by the barely recognizable Steven Root from TV's Newsradio. Fortunately, for the most part he remains a member of the office chorus, so that we can focus on what really matters: Peter's clever revenge scheme.

Although the movie is filmed in Judge's hometown of Austin, Texas, the uniform office parks and anonymous apartment buildings make it seem all too familiar. Certainly the developer, consultant, and stock jokes will play well anywhere. Memo to corporate bosses: be afraid, be very afraid.

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