Office Space

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Office Space

Theatrical poster
Directed by Mike Judge
Produced by Daniel Rappaport
Michael Rotenberg
Written by Mike Judge
Starring Ron Livingston
Jennifer Aniston
David Herman
Ajay Naidu
Diedrich Bader
Gary Cole
Stephen Root
Music by John Frizzell
Cinematography Tim Suhrstedt
Editing by David Rennie
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) February 19, 1999
Running time 89 minutes
Country Flag of the United States United States
Language English
Budget $10,000,000 (estimated)
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile

Office Space is an American comedy film written and directed by Mike Judge. It satirizes work life in a typical software company during the late 1990s, focusing on a handful of individuals who are fed up with their jobs. The film's sympathetic portrayal of ordinary IT workers garnered it a cult following among those in that profession, but also addresses themes familiar to office workers and employees in general. It was filmed in Austin and Dallas, Texas.

Office Space is based on the Milton series of cartoons Mike Judge created for Saturday Night Live and Liquid Television. Office Space was Mike Judge's first foray into film and his second full length motion picture release (the first being the animated Beavis and Butthead Do America). The promotional campaign for Office Space often associated it with Beavis and Butthead, ensuring that audiences would expect a brand of humor similar to that of the creator's previous animated efforts, rather than the relatively low-key ironic humor of this film. Initially a box office bomb, the film has become a cult classic; it has since sold very well on video and DVD, and some of the movie's dialogue has entered into the popular lexicon since its release.


[edit] Plot

The film depicts a group of employees at Initech, a company plagued by excessive management, and the everyday annoyance of office work in a cube farm setting evocative of the Dilbert comic strip. Soon after the movie begins, two consultants (John C. McGinley and Paul Willson), nicknamed "The Bobs" since they both have the same first name, are brought in to Initech to help with cutting expenses. The workers at Initech are then interviewed in order to determine which employees will be downsized or outsourced.

Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a software engineer who spends his days updating bank software to remedy the then-expected Y2K disaster. His co-workers include Samir Nayanajaad (Ajay Naidu), who complains that no one in the US can pronounce his name correctly; Michael Bolton (David Herman), who is angry that he shares his name with the real-life singer whom he hates; and Milton Waddams (Stephen Root), a soft-spoken, fixated collator who mumbles to himself incessantly (most notably about his co-workers borrowing his stapler) and is repeatedly harassed by management, especially the callous vice president Bill Lumbergh (Gary Cole). Lumbergh is Peter's nemesis — a stereotypical corporate middle-manager (reminiscent of Dilbert's Pointy Haired Boss) who spends most of his time wandering the office with coffee mug in hand, wears white-collared shirts, suspenders and a belt (considered a fashion faux pas), and emotionlessly micromanages his employees while engaging them with superficial small talk.

Peter finds himself stressed, burnt out, and ineffective, and will likely be on the Bobs' downsizing list. Fortunately for him, something unusual happens during an occupational hypnotherapy session urged upon him by his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Anne. The obese "occupational hypnotherapist", portrayed by Mike McShane, suddenly dies of a heart attack before he can snap, or "unhypnotize", Peter out of a state of complete relaxation. The newly relaxed and still half-hypnotized Peter announces that he will not work anymore, instead pursuing his lifelong dream of "doing nothing", and finally asking out Joanna (Jennifer Aniston), a waitress he's long wanted to date. During his interview with the Bobs, Peter unreservedly speaks his mind about the absurdity of his job and of how Initech is run, including the issue with having too many managers and not having any real motivation to work except to avoid getting in trouble. The Bobs interpret Peter's candor, easy-going attitude, and lack of regard for his job as evidence that he is unmotivated in his current position and thus a prime candidate for a managerial position. Much to his surprise, and Lumbergh's dismay, Peter receives a promotion while his friends Samir and Michael, two of the department's best employees, are scheduled to be fired.

In order to get back at the company, the three friends decide to infect the accounting system with a computer virus, which will round down fractions of a cent from accrual of interest and transfer the leftovers into their own account (see salami slicing). Peter, when questioned by Joanna about what he and his friends had been celebrating, attempts to diminish the sense that he is doing something illegal by comparing the theft to taking the pennies from the penny tray at a convenience store. The plan however backfires when a bug in the virus program's code causes it to take $305,326.13 in one day. The three friends are certain that such a large amount going missing in so short a time period will be noticed and result in their arrest. After a crisis of conscience, Peter decides to write a letter in which he takes all the blame for the crime. Peter slips an envelope containing the letter and the money (in unsigned traveler’s checks) under the door of Lumbergh's office when Lumbergh is not there, expecting to be arrested soon afterwards.

However, all their problems are solved when Milton finally snaps due to Lumbergh, who had taken away Milton's beloved red Swingline stapler, moved his desk to a cockroach-infested storage room in the basement, and stopped sending his paychecks (although Milton had been laid off years earlier, no one told him and he continued to come to work and be paid). Milton sets the Initech office building on fire (after having warned several times that he would "set the building on fire" throughout the film), destroying all the computers and the virus code, but not before first taking the envelope with the traveler's checks for himself. Peter finally finds a job that makes him happy: working construction with his neighbor Lawrence (Diedrich Bader); Samir and Michael get jobs at Initrode (a rival company), and Milton makes his way to a resort in Mexico with the traveler's checks. In a deleted scene only available on the DVD, it is revealed that Lumbergh died in the fire.

[edit] Cast

Actor Role Notes
Ron Livingston Peter Gibbons Main protagonist
Jennifer Aniston Joanna Peter's prospective girlfriend
Gary Cole Bill Lumbergh Peter's main boss and main antagonist
David Herman Michael Bolton Peter's co-worker and friend
Ajay Naidu Samir Nagheenanajar Peter's co-worker and friend
Alexandra Wentworth Anne Peter's cheating girlfriend
Stephen Root Milton Waddams Squirrely-looking Initech employee; mumbles a lot
Richard Riehle Tom Smykowski Useless Initech employee
Diedrich Bader Lawrence Peter's neighbor
Paul Willson Bob Porter Consultant
John C. McGinley Bob Slydell Consultant
Kinna McInroe Nina Initech employee
Todd Duffey Brian Chotchkie's employee
Greg Pitts Drew Initech employee
Mike McShane Dr. Swanson Peter's "occupational hypnotherapist"
Linda Wakeman Laura Smykowski Tom's wife
Kyle Scott Jackson Rob Newhouse Tom's lawyer
Orlando Jones Steve Door-to-door magazine salesman
Barbara George-Reiss Peggy Lumbergh's secretary
Mike Judge Stan Manager of Chotchkie's (credited pseudonymously as "William King")
Jack Betts the Judge Appears in a dream to sentence Peter and his friends to prison

[edit] Cast and character notes

Artie Lange also auditioned for the role of Milton.[1]

Lumbergh's ring is an EarthForce Academy class ring, which Gary Cole had also worn on Crusade.

The DVD release contains a scene not included in the theatrical release which establishes a different fate for the character of Bill Lumbergh. In one deleted scene, characters refer to his funeral. In the theatrical release, he does not appear in any of the final scenes.

[edit] Production

The origins for Office Space lie in a series of four animated short films about an office drone named Milton that Mike Judge created for Saturday Night Live in 1993.[2] The inspiration came from a temp job he once had that involved alphabetizing purchase orders[3] and a job he had as an engineer for three months in the Bay Area during the 1980s, "just in the heart of Silicon Valley and in the middle of that overachiever yuppie thing, it was just awful."[4] The setting of the film reflected a prevailing trend that Judge observed in the United States. "It seems like every city now has these identical office parks with identical adjoining chain restaurants," he said in an interview.[2] He remembers, "There were a lot of people who wanted me to set this movie in Wall Street, or like the movie Brazil, but I wanted it very unglamorous, the kind of bleak work situation like I was in."[3]

Judge sold the film to 20th Century Fox based on his script and a cast that included Jennifer Aniston, Ron Livingston, and David Herman.[2] Originally, the studio wanted to make a movie out of the Milton character but Judge was not interested, opting instead to make more of an ensemble cast-based film.[4] The studio suggested he make a movie like Car Wash but "just set in an office."[4] Judge made the relatively painless transition from animation to live-action with the help of the film's director of photography who taught him about lenses and where to put the camera. Judge says, "I had a great crew, and it's good going into it not pretending you're an expert."[3]

[edit] Reaction

In his review of the New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote, "It has the loose-jointed feel of a bunch of sketches packed together into a narrative that doesn't gather much momentum."[5] Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly criticized the film for feeling "cramped and underimagined."[6] However, in USA Today, Susan Wioszczyna wrote, "If you've ever had a job, you'll be amused by this paean to peons."[7]

[edit] In popular culture

Several phrases, items and concepts from the film have found their way into common usage (particularly in office environments):

  • PMITA prison refers to 'pound me in the ass prison' as opposed to soft time in white collar prison.
  • TPS report — denotes any type of pointless office paperwork, based on the film's satirical example of such work.
  • PC Load Letter — an actual HP laser printer error message indicating that the printer needs letter-sized paper, but more generally a catch-all for any nonsensical error message. The "PC" in the phrase stands for "Paper Cassette", a paper reservoir for many printers. This error is more common in Europe when printing US documents on printers loaded with size A4 paper.
  • 'In the movie, the printer's unreliability finally prompts Peter, Samir and Michael to take a baseball bat to the device in an open field as "Still" by the Geto Boys plays, in a scene visually referencing a violent episode in Casino. The term Office Space-style, or "Going Office Space on" is used to refer to this type of destruction.[8]
  • Did/Didn't you get that memo? — refers to a question a worker is asked by multiple supervisors at varying levels.
  • A case of the Mondays — refers to expressions of frustration at one's job (especially on Mondays); phrase is used by a cheery co-worker to describe Peter's attitude at the start of the film, and again later by Brian, the insufferably upbeat Chotchkie's waiter.
A red Swingline stapler
A red Swingline stapler
  • Red Swingline stapler — The item that is the only constant in the life of abused employee Milton Waddams, who snaps after it is stolen. Swingline hadn't made red staplers in years, and a red Swingline had never been made at the time Office Space was released (a prop department employee, named Ric Trzeciak, painted one PPG red, according to the film's commentary), but due to popular demand Swingline released a limited run of the red version in 2004. The official Swingline product page describes the product thus: "Discover the stapling star of any office space - the bold head-turning design and legendary performance of Swingline's Rio Red Stapler."[9]
  • No-talent ass clown — expression of Michael Bolton's antipathy for his namesake, the pop singer Michael Bolton. The term is now used to refer to a celebrity or performer who is successful despite having only marginal talent. It is also used as a general term of derision.
  • Pieces of Flair — refers to the mass quantities of buttons and pins Joanna is required to wear while working at the fictional Friday’s-esque restaurant "Chotchkie's", as in the title of the 2005 "Special Edition, with Flair" DVD release. (Tchotchke is a Yiddish word meaning "worthless trinket"—like the pieces of flair). Peter Gibbons criticises the practice, saying, "You know, the Nazis had pieces of flair that they made the Jews wear."[10]

[edit] In other media

[edit] Television

DVD cover showing the character Milton
DVD cover showing the character Milton
  • The animated Office Space short appeared on Liquid Television (MTV) in 1992, involving Milton and his stapler.
  • In the similarly-themed British television series The Office, "Pete Gibbons" is mentioned on two occasions as a former Wernham Hogg employee.
  • Although Gary Cole is credited as supplying numerous voices on the Fox series Family Guy, he reprised his role as Bill Lumbergh in the episode titled "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Fonz."
  • The Venture Brothers episode titled "I Know Why the Caged Bird Kills" a reference to the quantity of "flair" one was required to wear could be heard in the opening scenes office chatter.
  • There are three known "Milton" animated shorts which aired on SNL during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons (93a, 93p, 94d.)
  • In the television series Lost, John Locke has a flashback of working in a cubicle office and being harassed by his obnoxious boss, Randy, asking about TPS reports.
  • In the episode "The Redneck on Rainey Street" of the animated series King of the Hill, Kahn Souphanousinphone tells his boss on the phone that he has filed his TPS reports.
  • A red Swingline stapler is seen in an episode of Scrubs ("My Bright Idea") when Dr. Percival "Perry" Cox (played by John C. McGinley, who portrayed one of the Bobs in the movie) is seen talking to Elliot Reid through such a stapler.
  • In the "High" (originally aired 8/22/07) episode of "Rescue Me" a scene opens with Janet Gavin at work as she hands a colleague some papers and says, "The TPS reports."

[edit] Commercials

  • In the series of Reebok commercials featuring "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker", after one of his devastating hits on a co-worker, he yells "You know you need a cover sheet on your TPS Reports, Richard! That ain't new, baby!"
  • In a promotional ad for an episode of the show 30 Days about job outsourcing, series creator Morgan Spurlock is seated in an office cubicle. He drinks from a coffee cup and says the Lumbergh line "Yeah, we're gonna have to move your desk ... to India."
  • Blizzard Entertainment used a scene in this film in a commercial for World of Warcraft. The scene in particular was of Peter playing Tetris on his work computer while blowing off Lumbergh. The Tetris game running on the monitor was digitally replaced with footage from World of Warcraft, and the game's box was digitally added to the top of the monitor. Additionally, the Cheetos on Peter's desk were digitally replaced with WoW CDs.[11]
  • A commercial for Absolut Vodka themed for "Absolut: Case of the Mondays" uses the scene of the fax machine being pummeled.

[edit] Music video

[edit] Video games

  • In the video game Enter the Matrix, in a scene set in an office building, there is an area where the player can hear two employees discussing TPS reports, and referring to one having the other's stapler.
  • The video game F.E.A.R. contains several levels with shootouts set among cubicles in an office building. Papers entitled "TPS Report" litter desks, notes with the phone number to "Chotchkie's" are on cabinets and there is a red Swingline stapler on one of the desks. A poster entitled "Planning to Plan" is seen. Also, the logos for the fictional companies of Armacham Technologies in F.E.A.R. and Initech in Office Space are strikingly similar.
  • In the MMORPG City of Heroes robotic office workers/adversaries refer to 'TPS Reports'.
  • In the computer game Counter-Strike, TPS reports can be seen on the shelves in the multiplayer online map cs_office. On the same multiplayer map, the computer screens display a Windows desktop with an opened window titled "TPS report".
  • In the mobile phone game "Doom RPG", a reference to the "PC LOAD LETTER" message can be found on one of the computer terminals in the main lobby.
  • In the Wii game Super Paper Mario, Count Bleck's assistant Nastasia quotes Bill Lumbergh.
  • In the PC game Guild Wars: Eye of the North there is a character named "Blimm", a laboratory worker who routinely complains about the theft of his "Red Asuraline Staff" and the movement of his desk by his boss "Oola". He also repeatedly threatens to burn down her lab if his staff is not returned. The "Red Asuraline Staff" itself can acquired by killing a "TPS Regulator Golem". Blimm is involved in a quest entitled "Lab Space".

[edit] Internet

  • Milton's line, "I believe you have my stapler", was turned into a popular internet fad on such websites as YTMND, along with the "printer" scene.
  • Several quotes from the movie, particularly from Lumbergh, have been said by various characters from Homestar Runner at times.

[edit] In real life

  • The UK company Initech Ltd. was named after the company in the movie. Citation: Paul Atkinson CIO Initech Ltd.
  • The U.S. company Initech LLC was named after the company in the movie.[citation needed]

[edit] Trivia

  • A freeze frame on Peter's personnel file after "the Bob's" interviewed him shows that Peter attended Illinois State University.
  • The apartment complex which Peter lives in is named "Morningwood."

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Tallerico, Brian. "Artie Lange's Beer League DVD Review", Retrieved on 2007-08-16. 
  2. ^ a b c Fierman, Daniel. "Judge's Dread", Entertainment Weekly, February 26, 1999. Retrieved on 2007-08-16. 
  3. ^ a b c Beale, Lewis. "Mr. Beavis Goes to Work", Daily News, February 21, 1999. 
  4. ^ a b c Sherman, Paul. "Humorist is a good Judge of office angst", Boston Herald, February 21, 1999. 
  5. ^ Holden, Stephen. "One Big Happy Family? No, Not At This Company", New York Times, February 19, 1999. 
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owen. "Office Space", Entertainment Weekly, February 26, 1999. 
  7. ^ Wioszczyna, Susan. "No Frills Office Party", USA Today, February 19, 1999. 
  8. ^
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  10. ^
  11. ^

[edit] External links

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