Movies That Everyone Should See: “Office Space”

Lumbergh: Milt, we’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B. We have some new people coming in, and we need all the space we can get. So if you could just go ahead and pack up your stuff and move it down there, that would be terrific, OK?

Milton: Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler…

“Milton” was the first short film that animator Mike Judge produced. It featured the character of Milton, dealing with the character who would eventually evolve into Lumbergh in “Office Space”. Per Judge, Milton was based on a coworker he had at his first engineering job, who was “kind of an odd guy,” with a mail order bride, whom no one at work would speak to. One day, out of curiosity, Judge approached the man and asked him how things were going.

What he got, unsolicited, was a lengthy, mumbling tirade from the man about how management had had him move his desk three times.

The encounter was so memorable to Judge that he featured the character in a series of animated shorts. He entered the shorts in a Dallas animation festival, where they got picked up by Comedy Central. Eventually they would air on Saturday Night Live. The next year, Judge would create Beavis and Butthead, and his career as an animator was underway.

A little over five years later, with “King of the Hill” to his credit as well, Judge was ready to make the move to live action. He decided to return to the characters that he got his start with, and the inane world that they lived in.

The world of corporate America.

“Office Space” takes a look at the world of corporate cubicle farms, and exposes all of their worst characteristics. From the absurdity of stop and go traffic, to the frustration of malfunctioning office equipment, to the weekend sacrifices demanded by management, “Office Space” touches upon it all. Corporations that outlay cash hiring consultants, and then downsize employees. Multiple bosses making an enormous issues out of minutiae, like TPS reports. The special level of Hell that is experienced in sitting across from a receptionist. Corporate platitudes such as “Is this good for the COMPANY?

“Office Space” champions people with pointless tasks, kept in sedentary stations in fabric covered cells, beset with banal coworkers, and smothered in pointless, annoying, corporate regulations.

In the film, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is an enormously put upon individual. He’s acutely aware of the fact that his job is draining the soul out of him, and it’s tearing him apart. He’s subservient to heartless bosses, working on pointless tasks, and dating a woman who cheats on him. It’s made him despondent and depressed.

One night he attends a session with an occupational hypnotherapist, who puts him in a trance and convinces him that his concerns about his job are no more. He puts Peter into a state of total relaxation, but then dies suddenly before he can snap Peter out of it.

Peter is left in his state of “Deep Relaxation”.

He wakes up with a new attitude, to say the least.

He begins by blowing off reporting to work on the weekend. Then he blows off showing up on time on Monday, choosing instead to ask out the waitress he has a crush on (Jennifer Aniston). When he drops by work (in order to jot her number down in his book), he decides to keep a meeting with the consultants who have been retained by Initech to downsize the company. In fact, he enthusiastically attends.

And offers them a completely honest assessment of the company.

He proceeds to act completely as he wishes at work, showing up when and if he wants, openly playing video games, knocking down his cube wall. He becomes completely dismissive of his boss. It becomes completely obvious to everyone involved that Peter is playing by his own rules.

The thing is, he finds his rampant disregard for the rules being wildly rewarded. The girl he finally has the courage to approach is now his girlfriend. Instead of being reprimanded at work, he’s promoted. Once he sheds his inhibitions and begins to act as he pleases, that’s when his life begins to improve.

But, although Peter has changed, the corporation hasn’t. He may be reaping rewards, personally, but he discovers that his two best friends at work are about to be let go. Something needs to be done.

The Heist is on.

As bank software programmers, Peter, Michael (David Herman), and Samir (Ajay Naidu) are in a unique position to perpetrate theft. They write a code that affects a “Superman III” scheme, depositing interest which would typically be rounded off into an account that they control. Designed to siphon fractional, unnoticeable amounts from numerous accounts over a long period of time, it should eventually reap enormous amounts of money for them.

When it doesn’t perform as designed however, the three are faced with decisions to make.

Do they fess up and turn themselves in? Or roll the dice and hope they don’t get caught?

“‘Fight Club’ would be the movie that Peter Gibbons, in his head, he thinks he’s in,” – Ron Livingston

The movie plays like a cubical dweller revenge fantasy. Teeing off on the faulty office machines, telling the boss exactly what they think, literally busting down the walls of their cubes. Flipping the boss off. A fraud is perpetuated that robs the company of a lot of money. Someone eventually burns the office down.

It’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy film for everyone who’s been a captive in a cube, wishing they could be someplace else. Or just simply people who hate their jobs.

Which is why so many people have latched on to it. Whether or not you work in an office, everyone can relate to hating work. Everyone has had a boss they’d like to give the finger to. Who doesn’t want to come and go as they please, never have to bite their tongue, and yet never pay the price for it?

“Office Space” was a flop during its theatrical run, barely recouping its $10 million budget at the box office. But it caught on like wildfire on home video, and has since become a cult classic.

It gave us such memorable characters… Lawrence the unpretentious, unassuming blue-collar neighbor, Lumbergh the terrifyingly soulless boss, Milton the vengeful persona non grata. The Bobs. Samir Naga… Naga… Naga… Not gonna work here anymore, anyway. It’s put numerous phrases and concepts into the pop culture lexicon. “Pieces of flair”, “PC Load Letter errors”, “TPS Reports”, “A Case of the MONDAYS”. Everyone knows who you’re referring to if you say “I celebrate the man’s entire catalogue”.

Prior to this film, Swingline was no longer making red staplers… the production team for the film custom painted some in order to make them stand out visually onscreen. After “Office Space” caught on, requests were so numerous and so many knock offs appeared online that the company put them into production officially.

It became their top selling stapler.

It’s an extremely funny comedy that speaks to people’s inner, unspoken frustrations. It’s every bit as applicable today as it was upon its release in 1999. It’s become, rightfully, a cultural touchstone for office drones everywhere.

It’s definitely a “Movie That Everyone Should See

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53 thoughts on “Movies That Everyone Should See: “Office Space”

  1. The quotes I bring out the most from this one are:
    3) “You don’t need a million dollars to do nothin’, take a look at my cousin, he’s broke don’t do shit”
    2) “This is me expressing myself!”
    1) “Hold on a second there, Professor. We fixed the glitch”

    Great choice, Dan. I still remember the laughs of painful understanding that I, and those with me, had failed to suppress upon first viewing of this brilliance.

    • “Brilliance” is a good word here, this one is painfully insightful.

      3 great choices! Off the beaten path, yet recognizable, meaningful. They’re all funny as hell.

      Do you flip people off while reciting #2, there, Dak? :D

      • Way I see it, that’s part of the quote!

        I will, on occasion, drop the “glitch” portion from #1 because it works so well in a wider variety of situations. Sure it isn’t as recognizable in that form, but when you see a hint of recognition from someone the chances are you might have found another. Any little chance of help possible to get through the obtuseness that seems almost to be a requirement of the corporate world (both white collar & blue collar alike) warrants exploration in my mind.

  2. I think anyone who has to deal with the corporate mentality, will encounter the ass-lickers and management who speak in corporate speech! one way to liven up any meeting is to play bullshit-bingo, ticking off any buzz-words you hear.
    I had more than my fair share of run ins with managers and HR for speaking my mind, not to mention co-workers on my team squealing to management trying to score browny points to make themselves look good!
    I didn’t go as far as Peter, but after returning from a holiday, I came into work sat down ready to get back into the grind, only to be told by my boss “clear your desk, you’ve got 5mins” left perplexed and stunned, I calmly stuffed my belongings into a bag, left with my head up, plotting revenge….. thankfully I didn’t act on it, but I was close, so very close…..! ( I found out it was because he thought I was away for 10 days not 2 weeks, thought I was taking the piss, anyway i wanted to leave, so he did me a favour!)
    Now I work freelance from home, and have a family, so I either don’t have the energy to get worked up about tossers like Limbergh, or the time to!!!
    Every job I’ve had that has had it’s fair share of complete tossers like Limbergh, either so out of touch with reality, or someone who just lets the shit roll down hill into your lap to wipe up. I miss the daily chat, but don’t miss all the other office bullshit that makes your life hell!
    Great film by the way, !!!!

    • Hahaha. Laughing with you man, not at you. :D

      That’s what I’m talking about, right there. Everyone can relate to this movie, because it speaks to their frustrations with work, etc.

      I’m one of those guys that’s always getting in trouble for speaking my mind, too. For sure. I’d be further along in my career if I were a keep my mouth shut tyoe, but I’m not LOL. I dont like the taste of bullshit. :)

      Glad that event led you to a better place Nik. Funny story, man

  3. I love this movie!!!!! Any time someone took my stapler, all I can think about is Milton. Oh, Milton. Why isn’t there a movie on him yet?!?

    I’ve always wanted to take any fax/copier/computer to a field and just start hitting!

    • I know, LOL, right? Milton’s all rich and whatnot now… is he still living the high life, or what? :D That would be fun. Maybe he started his own office supply store, so he could have all the staplers he wanted! :D

  4. Pingback: Weekly Weblinks: Conventions and Cyborgs | Morgan on Media

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