Movie of the Week 5/21/14- Office Space

Office-space-1Over the years, Mike Judge seems to have developed a certain satirical voice. It’s hard for me to say for sure as I have very little direct experience with any of it, but there’s a clear voice at play even in what little I’ve seen. Perhaps the best and most famous example of this is Office Space, something I’ve seen pieces of on Comedy Central numerous times, and always wanted to see more of. Now that Shiran has finally satisfied that curiosity, I’m happy to report that Office Space lives up very well to its reputation, the one that all of you are probably very aware of already. But since I know you all care so much about my take on these things, I guess I better keep going.

The biggest strength of the film (and the segment that I’d seen the most of) is the opening, a well-crafted piece of filmmaking that effortlessly captures some universal truths about modern office life and the frustrations of working a 9-to-5. From the start-and-stop monotony of the commute to the insipid bosses to the random policy changes and crappy computers, office life is depicted with frightening and frustrating accuracy. On a craft level, it’s also very well paced and has a nice progression, and keeps things moving and lively. And the sharp tone is delivered with precision by the solid cast; while Gary Cole and Stephen Root deliver the most ridiculous and oft-quoted performances, everyone else involved is right on the money as well, serving the world and tone and story exactly as needed.

Unfortunately, once the actual story takes hold it loses a bit of its universality and becomes a little more ridiculous with the plot to rob the company. It sort of reminded me how Kevin Smith movies can feel a little slapdash when it comes to plot-related moments while feeling so relatable on a character level. The film doesn’t retain the same steady pacing that the opening has and it loses some momentum, and while it didn’t ever lose me or bore me it didn’t maintain the same energy of that great opening. Regardless, Judge still retains a great sense for individual moments, so if nothing else the film remains peppered with nice little moments of truth and zeitgeist throughout.

One great example of that is how Judge shows the assimilation of rap music into the boring middle class office world. It’s first demonstrated in the opening sequence, where Michael is wholeheartedly rapping along with the radio, until he sees a black guy walking down the street and he completely shuts up. The ante is then upped later in the film, where the guys destroy their terrible office printer in a scene that is presented like the worst gangster rap video ever. It’s a smart and throwaway observation of these sheltered guys embracing a musical style and culture that’s so far removed from their monotonous existences, and it’s just as pointed as the film’s overall condemnation of office life.

Now let’s go to Shiran for the latest on her thoughts on Office Space:

I was excited to show Brendan Office Space because I assumed he’d respond well to the satirical, exaggerated portrayal of a grating office life, especially now that he’s started a more conventional (but very exciting) office job. But it wasn’t until halfway through the movie that I realized the last time I had watched it  was years ago, before I had ever started working myself. Probably because of that, some parts of the movie now affect me much more than others. The parts that deal specifically with the office feel much sharper — even though my office life looks nothing like Pete’s — because the monotony and exhaustion just feels much more visceral now. While I do think the second half of the movie works really well, both as a continuation of the earlier story and as a piece of satire, it definitely feels like my preference for the earlier half is shared by Mike Judge — the writing seems to revel in the earlier parts of the story, while the entire plot of the theft is rushed through in something like twenty minutes. Ultimately, this is a rare case of a movie that I feel could be even better with less plotting involved, because the pure personalities they have on display at Initech are such a joy to laugh at, the movie needs very little else to succeed.

We’ll be back in a few days with a very timely screening choice. Stay tuned!

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