In today’s scary job market, with jobs being cut left and right, it might be time to step back and ask yourself what you might do if faced with a layoff. Would you scream in rage? Get drunk? Work on a scheme to embezzle thousands from your boss? Set the building on fire? Or would you take a step back, and tell yourself “You know, I didn’t want this job in the first place, and I’m not going to worry about it anymore.” Anybody can face such problem in their career, including those working in Office space at Raffles Place among other companies.
The film Office Space gets to examine these questions of the stuff we do compared to the stuff we’d like to be doing, with a nice, satirical edge bent at poking fun at the corporate life in the process. It’s the funniest movie about getting fired that you’ll ever see.
The movie, created and directed by Mike Judge (the same guy responsible for Bevis amp; Butthead) follows the life Peter Gibbons, an overworked, stressed out office worker at the software company Initech. Peter is miserable. His boss is a passive-aggressive dick, his fellow co-workers annoy him no end, and he has eight different bosses jumping on him after one tiny mistake. It doesn’t end there, because he’s saddled with a domineering girlfriend who is trying to rule his life to “patch things up,” and his neighbor likes to entice him to watch naughty commercials by shouting through the thin walls.
About the only relief he gets from his day is the time he spends with his friends and fellow co-workers, Michal Bolton (who loathes the singer who shares his name) and Samir (who gets frustrated when people can’t get his last name right, when the printer screws up on him, when…well, let’s just say he gets frustrated easily).
Then the pile he has to wade through gets bigger. His girlfriend tells him they are going to see a hypnotherapist on his poker night, his boss tells him to come in over the weekend, and he learns that Initech has hired “efficiency consultants” and is about to start a round of layoffs. As he tells the therapist, “Since I started working, every day is worse than the last…so whenever you see me, it’s the worst day of my life.”
And then things change. The hypnotherapist puts him into a trance, but has a heart attack before he can bring Peter out of it. And Peter, feeling more relaxed than he has in years, decides to say “screw it.” And this is where the movie truly begins.
He decides that he’s just not going to go to work anymore. While his coworkers mutter and stumble through interviews with the consultants to keep their jobs, Peter stays in bed, asks a girl at the local trendy chain restaurant out on a date, wrecks his cubicle to have a view, ignores his boss, and tells the consultants exactly what he thinks about his job. In short, he tries everything he can think of to get fired and pursue his dream of doing nothing special.
The consultants, however, mistake his casual attitude as management potential. So while they are laying off his coworkers left and right (including his two friends), he gets promoted to upper management. Of course, upon learning his friends will soon be unemployed, he convinces them to strike back at the company with a virus that will steal thousands of dollars from them over the course of several years. Nothing could ever go wrong with this plan, could it?
I won’t spoil the rest of the movie for you. But the plot really isn’t the selling point of the movie anyway. The real fun comes from the little slices of office life that the movie viciously mocks through the characters. We get to see poor butt-monkey Milton pushed around by his boss. We get to see office workers with redundant jobs sweating as the consultants ask them exactly what it is they do. We get to see a recalcitrant printer given a very satisfying gansta-style beating. We get to see a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston and a pre-Scrubs John McGinley before they got famous. We get to see Milton getting sweet, sweet revenge. All these gems and more are set out like a sketch comedy routine that will give you chuckles and memorable lines for years to come.
This is a movie about the things we’re forced to do as opposed to the things we feel we have to do. It asks us to question what it is we’re doing with our lives, and tells us that opportunities can be waiting for us if we adjust our perceptions just a little bit. You might not want to go to some of the extremes the characters of this movie do, but you can look at your life and decide to indulge that part of you that says “I want to do this” instead of being chained to the thought that “I have to do this.” And that’s something to think about.