There's something about a study of life in a `cubicle' to which just about everyone can relate; at least everyone who has ever had to get up every day, go to work and punch a time clock, then go home and wait to do it all over again the next day. In `Office Space,' writer/director Mike Judge (the guy who gave us `Beavis and Butthead') captures the essence of the work-a-day world, in this case in an office setting, though it could be on any job anywhere, from the largest conglomerate to the smallest business concern; anywhere a `corporate structure' is in place and employed. The subtle humor of Judge's vision is funny, and often downright hilarious, and all with very little exaggeration of the way things really are, from the weekly `motivational' talks from the boss, to staff meetings, corporate `mission statements' and the protocol of cover sheets and memos, all of which-- as portrayed here-- have a sterling ring of truth to them. The central character of Judge's story is a guy named Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a software analyst for `Initech,' who after working with a therapist finds himself in something of a transcendental state of mind, whereupon he divulges to a pair of consultants-- `efficiency experts' sent in to streamline the company's operation-- that he does only about `fifteen minutes of real work' a week, due to the very structure (or lack thereof) of the company itself. And his refreshingly honest candor in outlining his job description soon has quite an unexpected effect on his life, as well as that of a couple of co-workers. Judge perceptively expands the satire to encompass facets of Peter's life outside the office, as well, which gives the audience even more with which to identify, like driving to work in bumper to bumper freeway traffic that has slowed to a stop-- in Peter's lane-- while the cars in the next lane going flying by; and when he changes into THAT lane, IT comes to a standstill while the cars in the lane he just left start to whiz on by. It's an application of Murphy's Law that -- while certainly nothing new-- works well within the context of this particular story, in which the humor is derived from emphasizing the annoying, mundane things that happen to us all on a daily basis. Like getting in the shortest line at the supermarket and taking longer than anyone else to get checked out. Livingston gives a notable performance, giving Peter that sense of the `everyman' who'd like nothing better than to break free of the rigors of the 8 to 5 existence. He brings an affable presence to the screen that perfectly communicates what Judge is attempting to say, and does it in such a way that it validates Peter's being selected as `Champion of the Cause' as it were. Also turning in memorable performances are Stephen Root (a terrific character actor), as Milton, a guy whose very existence seems to be a study in suffering abuse and degradation; and Gary Cole, as Peter's boss, Bill Lumbergh, whose impudent, laconic methods of intimidation, delivered in such a droll manner, make him the boss everybody loves to hate. The supporting cast includes Jennifer Aniston as Joanna, the waitress with a minimum of `flare' who has trouble `expressing' herself, according to her boss; Ajay Naidu (Samir); David Herman (Michael Bolton); Richard Riehle (Tom); Joe Bays (Dom); John C. McGinley (Bob Slydell); Paul Wilson (Bob Porter) and Diedrich Bader (Lawrence). Reminiscent of the world portrayed in the `Dilbert' comic strip, `Office Space' works because it effectively puts real people in real situations, and brings you into contact with some characters you're going to recognize; I guarantee that no matter what you do to live, thrive and survive, you've run into these people, worked for them, and alongside them. It's a case of art reflecting reality, and to Judge's credit he's succeeded in making a funny movie that really hits close to home, without resorting to any gross or infantile humor to do it. It's a film that simply puts the `corporate experience' in the spotlight and gives you a chance to laugh at `the boss,' and maybe even a little bit at yourself along the way. I rate this one 8/10.
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