Slowly lurching through the commute, whittling life’s precious seconds away. Round the clock monotony has never been adapted so well. Horrifying it must be to see yourself replicated by the character portrayed by Ron Livingston. That slow plunge into work, the boss that doesn’t understand the desire to move on and up from a lowly desk position. Modernity is not quick to deal with the lives found in this tiny block of desks. Office Space has tones of grey and glum coordination, and it is with that that Mike Judge leaves his mark as an impressive purveyor of monotony. He drags the fun out of that everyday horror so many take part in.
But their scuttle through the rat race is not something that offers camaraderie. It is a kill or be killed environment. Office Space knows that much and interacts with the notions of not wanting to participate in society. Peter (Livingston) is burnout personified. We all need a break. But how long of a break is right? Peter is the embodiment of tipping over the edge. He is too far gone to return to work. Burnt out beyond what is healthy. Many will feel the same way, and Judge presents that as the humour-fuelled antidote to that monotony. To poke fun and find the little games that whittle away the hours, that is the way to survive the office environment. Judge produces the little games that turn into big ideas, with a scheme to steal money without anyone noticing.
It relies not just on the Y2K transfer but the notion that the little guy and the small schemes go completely unnoticed. Office Space is frank with its timing. Its climax comes a mere ten minutes before the end credits roll, and the fallout from the big bust-ups of character arcs are neatly tied up suddenly and effectively. That is a credit to the supporting cast. Littered with the likes of Jennifer Anniston, Gary Cole and John C. McGinley, the big names in the supporting roles make for fantastic additions to the hard work Livingston, David Herman and Ajay Naidu make. But the real, inevitable draw for Office Space is Stephen Root, who knocks it out of the park as ever. His performance as Milton provides those memorable moments that make the rounds in internet discussion twenty years on. Ironically it is the glum mundanity of realising how futile office life is that gives us the best respite from it.
That inspiring bar speech Peter gives is brief and lingering. Corporate criticism, not veiled as a counter-culture or solution, but as something we should strive against whether actively fighting it or just nodding along with those that do. Office Space is fun, fast and gives audiences enough time to connect with these characters, but not long enough for them to outstay their welcome. It is the benefit of fleeting moments, those memorable scenes that linger not because of anything inherently conforming or needing to display a message, but because of the happenstance nature of it. It just so happens that Office Space is a knockout blow to the cubicle culture, and it never takes itself seriously enough to display any real notion of the responsibilities and outcome of destroying the corporate lifestyle.