9 September 2009

OFFICE SPACE (Dir. Mike Judge, 1999, US) - 'It would be nice to have that kind of job security...'

Fear of the workplace.

The workplace as a source of humiliation, entrapment and resignation is something that Mike Judge does spectacularly well to critique in his 1999 cult film, ‘Office Space’. This is in essence a socio-political satire disguised as one of those self indulgent Judd Apatow movies that seem to spring up with despairing regularity at the local multiplex. It is a cheerily deceptive political satire in which we find a hapless IT worker, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), zombified by the relative nothingness of contemporary office life. However, Peter Gibbons decision to ‘take it easy’ makes him rebel against the powers that be and effectively liberate his soul from the tiresome machine called capitalism. It is somewhat mystifying that such a biting and acerbic statement on the culture of work and the workplace has come from the chasms of a mainstream genre. One could easily argue that the film simply adopts a default conservative ending in which most of the characters achieve their goals yet such a valid point would overlook the apocalyptic nature of having to work in a meaningless job that is perfectly encapsulated in the absurdest facial expressions of Peter’s circle of co workers.

The films of Mike Judge offer some of the sharpest and funniest insights into the psyche of the American workplace and his latest film, ‘Extract’, is a continuation of a preoccupation with magnifying those spaces that have been patented by the corporate mass. Ricky Gervais, the creator of the UK TV series, ‘The Office, must have seen this one, if not, then perhaps both Mike Judge and Gervais tap into a nightmarish commonality of work related anxieties recognisable in most societies today. The only real flaw is the director’s misjudgement in casting the annoyingly untalented Jennifer Aniston as the love interest. A key American film of the 90s for sure.

This original classic fax/copier mash up from the film has been parodied endlessly on YouTube by die hard fans. An obvious Marxist statement - the enslavement of mankind by consumer culture and arbitrary machines.


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