A GENERATION AGO, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin showed that working 9 to 5 was enough to drive 'em crazy. Now, those hours are practically a luxury for corporate peons who come in early, stay late, and eat lunch in front of their computers. Such is life at Initech, a fictional but all-too-true corporation portrayed in the sharp new comedy Office Space.
It's better in the office: Aniston may have a leg up on Livingston, but Ajay Naidu and David Herman have more to offer.
Centering on a group of frustrated, underappreciated employees at a company about to downsize, Office Space is a fine study in modern corporate absurdity. Written and directed by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-head and co-creator of King of the Hill, the movie plays out like an animated feature, with its actors possessing all the color and goofiness of cartoon characters. There is Peter (Ron Livingston), the likable Everyman protagonist harassed by his world of memos, overtime, and inane co-workers; Michael, a pasty-white computer programmer (David Herman) who fancies himself a gangsta rapper; the unctuous boss (Gary Cole), whose "casual" manners mask his intentions to downsize; and a host of other characters you're bound to recognize—from the perpetual company misfit to the agonizingly perky blonde who scolds the less eager for having a "bad case of the Mondays."
directed by Mike Judge
starring Ron Livingston, David Herman, Jennifer Aniston
now playing at Pacific Place, Factoria, Oak Tree, and others
Every one of these figures is a comic gem, and the story is surprisingly upbeat, proving against expectation that Judge is far more a master at good-natured jokes than Beavis-type crassness. (Let's just say—for the sake of not giving anything away—that the jokes ricocheting off these characters amount to a delicious, much-needed catharsis for anyone who's felt like a white-collar slave.)
THE ONLY DISAPPOINTMENT is Jennifer Aniston, whose sole credential for being in this film is her ability to attract legions of fraternity boys. I have nothing against Aniston—for sheer T&A value, I suppose she's OK; but dammit, give the woman a haircut! Her overlong mermaid locks are not only inappropriate to her role as a waitress at a Red Robinesque restaurant; they also dwarf the rest of her so much that she looks like the mutant spawn of Cousin It and Smurfette. Her bimboness would be tolerable if her role were small and one-dimensional, but Judge also tries, unsuccessfully, to infuse her with some depth by casting her as the symbol of all that is good and true in a young man's life. After ditching work, Peter goes to Joanna, looks straight into her eyes, and declares, "I'd like to take you out to dinner, then I'd like to go back to my place and watch some kung-fu."
"Kung-fu? I love kung-fu," she answers breathlessly—as if she'd been waiting all her life for a man to make such an offer.
Most of her scenes fall flat, and suggest that Judge has limits when it comes to creating believable female characters. Fortunately, Joanna doesn't interfere in the chemistry boiling over in the office beaker. All of the comedy struck amongst the Initech drones make Office Space a must-see. Days later at my own office, I was still chuckling ruefully, constantly reminded of certain moments in the movie.