Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let's Watch a Comedy!

Considered one of the classic cult films of the younger generation, the witty and spot-on portrayal of cramped cubicle life, "Office Space", hits every comedic mark, in my humble opinion. The story follows 9 to 5 white collar everyman Pete Gibbons, who works at the dreary Initech Corporation where his job is to go through column after column of code and make tiny little edits to prepare for Y2K (as you can tell, this film was made in 1999). Pete, along with his two pals Samir and Michael (full name Michael Bolton, a nice touch), are absolutely fed up with the dreariness of the office, with the endless filing, paperwork, printer jams, office parties and TPS reports. And though both Samir and Michael are agitated, it is Pete who has an epiphany after an overweight psychotherapist keels over and dies in an attempt to hypnotize him. Pete's life is changed and, following the firing of Michael and Samir and Pete's unlikely promotion for missing days and days of work, the trio puts into action one of the greatest computer hacker schemes ever concocted to bring down Initech once and for all.

"Office Space", sadly for everyone involved, was not a particularly successful film in the box office. Audiences didn't quite grasp the dry, "humorless" humor, and the indie-feel of the picture, I think, threw a lot of people off. However, today the film is worshiped by many, both as a cult classic and a testament to the stick-it-to-the-man attitude of the common white collar worker. As I watch the film, though, I can't seem to grasp why it wasn't an immediate success. Besides what I already pointed out, (the style of the film and the humor) I think that "Office Space" should have been one of the big comedies of '99. I feel like, back in the days of "Office Space", anti-punchline humor was largely obsolete. That kind of humor was of course pioneered by British comedian Ricky Gervais, whose similarly titled series "The Office", and more importantly its wildly successful American remake, has become one of the staples of modern comedy. "Office Space" would have faired well, I believe, in today's wild world of comedy. Much better than it did in '99.

One of the things that makes "Office Space" such a joy to watch is the portrayal of Pete Gibbons by actor Ron Livingston. Now, Ron Livingston is usually pretty high up there on my list of actors I don't care about and don't care for, but in this film, he is just perfect. He's funny, quirky, smart and witty. Throughout the film, even though Pete is an enormous slacker and a bit of a loser, I found myself unable not to feel sympathetic towards him. His life is so sad, and he takes it all lying down until a certain point, and Livingston does a wonderful job of bringing out the humor in the script and drawing the audience into his character's mind. His two sidekicks, Samir and Michael, are also integral parts of the film. Samir is an Arabic guy who moved to America from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is one of the funniest characters in the film, and his obsession with sex ("In conjugal visits you get to have sex with women?") is less creepy than it sounds, and more simply silly. Michael really steals the show as Pete and Samir's cocky, big-mouthed programmer friend who listens and sings along to extremely loud rap music, but feels the need to turn it down when a black cop walks by his car in the street. Michael is straightforward and bitterly funny. His ongoing fight with the office printer makes for one of the greatest scenes in movie history, a scene you will just have to wait and see for yourself. Oh, by the way...Michael's response to how conjugal visits work? "Shit, I'm a free man and I haven't had a conjugal visit in six months!" Comic gold.

And, funny, saddening and pathetic enough to get his own paragraph, we have Milton. Milton is a stuttering, red-faced, round-waisted data analyst who loves his red Swingline stapler and swears on his life that if his desk is moved just once more, he'll set the whole building on fire. His desk has been moved six times. That should give you a taste of Milton's resolve. If there are no other reasons to watch this film, Milton is the one. Hilariously played by Stephen Root, Milton putters around the office trying to get things to go his way, though everyone around him seems uninterested in anything he has to say. He is by far one of the funniest characters ever to grace the silver screen, and he steals almost every scene he is in.

Now I'm sure all of you drama-types out there would rather hear about the kind of films I generally write about, but from time to time I will crack open a nice jar of comedy jam (ouch, bad metaphor, forget I said that) and spread it on your eager minds. Now it's a creepy metaphor, too. Oh well. Point is: "Office Space" isn't like some of the other movies I've reviewed where you have to go out and rent/buy it this very moment. Someday, when you want a nice, relaxing evening at home with a hysterically funny movie on the television, pick "Office Space". It'll be worth your while.


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