Office Space is the first feature-length film directed by writer/creator Mike Judge. It is based on his "Milton" animated shorts. Office Space did not generate stunning box office on its original release in 1999, but the film, along with red Swingline staplers, have since attained cult status.
This film chronicles the dreary life of Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston
), a software engineer cubicle dweller at Initech. Peter has a frustrating commute, tiresome coworkers, an inane boss and a girlfriend that he's pretty sure is cheating on him. The only bright spots in his life are his two friends at work, Samir (Ajay Naidu
), and the unfortunately named Michael Bolton (David Herman
), his laid-back construction worker neighbor Lawrence (Diedrich Bader
), and Joanna, a waitress at the local Chotchkie's restaurant whom he worships from afar (Jennifer Aniston
After enduring a morning at work consisting of repetitive reprimands about the minutia of TPS reports, the bleak office atmosphere takes a tense turn when the employees are informed that Initech is bringing in a consultant to help improve efficiency. All the Initechers are nervous about interviewing for their own jobs, but Milton (Stephen Root
), a twitchy, mumbling long-time employee, is only concerned that he will either be asked to move his desk again, or that someone will notice he's kept his beloved red Swingline stapler after the company had switched to another brand. Michael Bolton threatens to unleash the virus he's been working on, or join Samir in trashing the horrible printer they're forced to deal with.
On Friday Peter attempts to sneak out early, but is caught by his arrogant boss, Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole
), and is roped into working over the weekend. Peter finally leaves the office and reluctantly joins his girlfriend, Anne (Alexandra Wentworth
), at an appointment with an occupational hypnotherapist that he's hoping can help him have a more positive outlook on life. The hypnotherapist does indeed get Peter into a very relaxed state, but suffers a fatal heart attack before he can bring him out. The next morning, Peter ignores his alarm clock, blowing off working on Saturday. He also manages to sleep through the 17 messages left for him by Lumbergh. He takes an angry call from Anne, who's demanding an explanation for his odd behavior. Peter responds by hanging up on her, and Anne responds by breaking up with him (yes, she WAS cheating on him). Peter returns to bed for the remainder of the day.
On Monday, instead of going to work, Peter goes to Chotchkie's and finally asks Joanna out for lunch. They get to know each other and he tells her of his plan to not quit, but just stop going to work. They also discover a mutual appreciation for the TV series Kung Fu
, and a date is made to watch it later at Peter's apartment. Peter then heads over to the Initech office to retrieve his address book, and runs into Michael Bolton who advises him to go home instead of keeping his interview apointment with the efficiency experts, both of whom happen to be named Bob. Peter decides this is the opportunity he's been waiting for, and meets with the Bobs. He tells them in no uncertain terms about his lack of motivation and his frustration of having to answer to seven levels of management. He leaves the meeting feeling unburdened, wishes them all well, and the Bobs are duly impressed.
Meanwhile, Joanna has her own version of Lumbergh to deal with, her boss at Chotchkie's, Stan (Mike Judge
). He conveys his disappointment about the "flair" (the decorative buttons and the like) on her work uniform. He lectures that while the "flair" is her opportunity to express herself, she seems satisfied in only wearing the bare minimum of 15 pieces. Joanna, perplexed, assures him she will do more to express herself.
The reorganization at Initech is progressing. The Bobs are meeting with upper management, and inform Lumbergh of several employees who will be let go. They also point out that they discovered an irregularity. Milton had actually been laid off five years prior, but through a glitch in accounting, continued to receive a paycheck. The Bobs report that they fixed the glitch, and that Milton will eventually leave of his own accord. When they bring up the subject of promoting Peter, Lumbergh has to go ahead and disagree with them, but they vehemently push back, and start quizzing Lumbergh on how much time he's spending on those TPS reports.
Peter spends the next several days hanging with Joanna and fishing with Lawrence. He shows up back at Initech at the request of the Bobs to find out that not only is he getting a promotion, people reporting to him, a raise and stock options, but that among others both Samir and Michael Bolton are being fired. He meets with his friends that night and asks Michael Bolton if the virus he's always talking about will really work. Michael explains that the virus will take the fractions of a penny that remain on every bank transaction and deposit them into an account. The theft will be so gradual that it will take years before it's even noticed. The three friends agree that it's a foolproof scam, and decide to put it in motion the following day before Samir and Michael are let go for good. They also agree not to tell anyone else, even though Lawrence has heard all the details of the plan through the apartment wall. Peter assures Samir and Michael that "he's cool."
The plan to upload the virus is executed with Mission: Impossible-like precision, and the friends declare, "That was easy." After Michael Bolton and Samir are escorted out by security, Peter takes them to a nearby field to give them a going-away present: the printer that's been the bane of their existence. Michael and Samir take out their frustrations on the printer, totally stomping and demolishing it with baseball bats and even their bare hands. The day ends badly for Milton as well, when he's asked to move his desk into Storage Unit 2, and Lumbergh confiscates his red Swingline stapler.
That weekend, on their way to a party being thrown by a recently laid-off Initech coworker, Peter reveals the penny-pinching software scam to Joanna. Despite his best efforts, he fails to convince her that what he, Samir and Michael are doing isn't
stealing. Once at the party, Peter finds out to his horror that Joanna once slept with Lumbergh! He confronts her with this information on the way home from the party, they argue, and she storms off after proclaiming that he needs to drop his judgment and grow up. Peter then suffers a horrible nightmare in which he envisions Lumbergh having sex with Joanna, but still being his "ah-yeah" Lumbergh self.
Joanna's run of confrontations continue. Her boss, Stan, again reprimands her for not using her "flair' to express herself. Joanna decides she's finally had enough, expresses herself by flipping him the bird, and quits her job.
The next morning Peter checks the balance in the illicit penny-pinching scam account and finds it is a shocking $305,326.13! The three friends meet, and Michael chalks the glitch up to a mundane detail that he's possibly overlooked. Meanwhile, at Initech, the insults continue to be loaded onto Milton's mental camel. After he is (again) denied a piece of office birthday cake, the last straw comes in the form of a request to please go ahead and take care of the cockroach problem in Storage Unit 2, an action that is clearly not in his job description. He mumbles that perhaps he'll burn down the building. Peter, Samir and Michael have been mulling over their problem of too much stolen money all day, and determine that they are simply not good criminals. Before they adjourn for the night, Peter learns from Michael and Samir that Joanna did sleep with someone named Lumbergh, but to Peter's relief, it wasn't their boss. After Michael and Samir leave, Peter knows what he must do: he decides to return the money to Initech along with a note taking responsibility for the whole thing. First, Peter meets Joanna outside of the new restaurant she's working for and informs her that he may be going to jail for a while since he's planning to take the rap for the penny-pinching scam. He asks for her forgiveness and says that though he might never find a job he likes, he thinks he could be happy in his life if he's with her. She forgives him immediately.
Peter sneaks into Initech after hours and slips the envelope containing his confession letter and the $350,000 in traveler's checks under Lumbergh's office door. The next morning, Milton lets himself into Lumbergh's empty office in an effort to retrieve his red stapler. Back at his apartment, Peter bids farewell to Lawrence and heads off to hit the road. On his way out, he passes the Initech building ... which is completely engulfed in flames. As the building collapses, we see Milton wandering away from the crowd, mumbling about his stapler.
Later, we see Peter has joined Lawrence's construction crew and is working on the clean-up of the Initech fire. Peter runs across the red stapler and scoops it up -- he knows there's someone who's looking for it. Michael and Samir come by to visit on their lunch break from their new jobs at Innertrobe. The friends conclude that the fire likely consumed the confession letter and all the money, and decide they're in the clear from their foray into crime. Peter soaks in the simple pleasure of being outside and making an honest living.
Next we see Milton at a beautiful Mexican resort and the mystery of what happened to the money is solved. When he's given the wrong drink order, he first threatens to take his traveler's checks to a competing resort ... then to burn the resort down ... and then to poison the guacamole.