Being the bad teacher that I am, I recently had the great idea of showing Office Space to my small group classes. I have seven small group classes. I have now viewed Office Space more times than I have any other movie, including Lost in Translation, The Big Lebowski, and Amelie. Somewhere between 10 and 14 times. Needless to say, I should be kind of an expert now on why the film is brilliant.
1. Office Space is much more than a vehicle for laughs; there are layers of satire condemning everything from corporatism to modern American culture to the human condition (laziness).
2. Peter Gibbons is an anti-hero disguised as a hero. Peter is portrayed as a good guy and so we think he is the good guy, but we forget that this is a satire. Peter, himself, is a satire. In reality, Peter borders on being the villain of the film. He is lazy, manipulative, and selfish. Yeah his job and his life sucks and he loves to blame others…but in reality he’s the only one to blame for the mediocrity of his life.
3. Everything that culminates later on is set up early on. Everything. There is not one thing that culminates in the 2nd or 3rd act that is not foreshadowed or set up in the 1st act. Go ahead, watch the movie again with a pen and paper. Keep track of every single conversation that is had in the film prior to the inciting incident, and then check off each item when it culminates later on. Not one single word or moment occurs in the first 30 minutes of the film that does not serve a very specific and important purpose.
4. The sub-story is brilliant in that it is the ultimate set up for the climax and aftermath of the film. The office catching on fire, in any other writer’s hands, could have easily been done in such a way that we’d laugh it off as another implausible deus ex machina. But in Office Space, it is absolutely not the deus ex machina it appears to be. Milton literally tells us that he’s going to set the building on fire half a dozen times from the very beginning of the film — though he does it under his breath, so that it’s not completely obvious to the first-time viewer. Too often we have lame sub stories (usually concerning the romantic interest) which do not tie in so crucially to the plot. In Office Space, we think that Milton is merely a vehicle for humor until the climax occurs and we realize Mike Judge had been setting us up along.
5. Office Space was produced at the perfect time considering its subject matter (right before the pending Y2K fiasco) and yet it is timeless. Office politics will always be lame, people will always be stupid, and laziness will always hold us back. Although viewers will be able to enjoy this movie for generations to come, there could not have been any better moment for it to have been born than 1999.