A Look Back: Office Space

What transforms a good movie into a classic?  Well, if at least a few quotes have staying power, that’s a bonus.  “Office Space,” which came out in the nineties, like a John Hughes or Monty Python movie, has the advantage of not only expressing something universal, it’s compulsively quotable.  A few gems.

“It’s not that I’m lazy…it’s that I just don’t care!”

“You’ve been missing an awful lot of work lately.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘missing’ it.”

“The ratio of cake to people is too big.”

Ron Livingston plays the protagonist of “Office Space,” a white collar computer software drone named Peter Gibbons, who deals with the same petty indignities most of us do in our jobs.  For starters, he has to crawl through bottleneck traffic, and when he arrives, he’s greeted by a perky colleague who chirps, “Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays!” complete with an exaggerated Frowny Face.  He doesn’t have one supervisor, he has seven or eight, so when he makes a minor error such as forgetting to attach the cover to his TPS report, he gets reprimanded umpteen times. His boss is the skin-crawlingly smarmy Lumbergh (Gary Cole), whose hand is permanently attached to his coffee mug, whose speech is punctuated by “Mmmm…yeah…m’okays,” and who has a habit of asking him to work weekends on the spur of the moment before he can think of an excuse not to.

Unsurprisingly, Ron’s free time is depressing, too.  Every night he collapses on the couch, only to be interrupted by his next door neighbor, a single guy who bellows, “Check out the breast exams – Channel 9!” Nor is Ron happy with the girl he’s dating – he half-suspects that she might be cheating on him, and his friends are sure of it.  But he’s stuck in a rut of inertia, and there’s seemingly no way out.

Ron, of course, is not the only corporate drone who is unhappy.  There’s his two pals Michael Bolton (David Herman) and Samir (Ajay Naidu), who suffer even more indignities based on their names.  If the three of them don’t do something about their festering discontent, one fears they may one day morph into Milton (Stephen Root), the elderly “squirrelly” guy who wages daily battles to listen to his radio at a reasonable volume, remain in the same cubicle for longer than a week, and keep his prized Swingline stapler out of the clutches of others who may filch it.

One day after work, Ron accompanies his girlfriend to a hypnotist shrink, whose treatment has a unique effect on Ron, mainly that he still lacks motivation but now no longer cares who knows.  He starts coming in late for work, guts fish on his TPS reports and starts dating a server from a chain restaurant nearby (Jennifer Aniston), who also has major issues with her job and the level of enthusiasm for it that she’s expected to display.  So Ron’s happy until he learns that there is some corporate “restructuring” going on, and that his friends’ jobs are on the line.  After that comes embezzlement, comuppance, and ultimately arson, brought about by the theft of the Swingline stapler, which is apparently indestructible and survives the inferno at the end.  As for Stephen, he’s last seen on a tropical beach complaining about the drinks and plotting revenge.  Some people are never satisfied.


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