Originally when I rented Office Space, I thought this was the movie that was the basis of Fred Savage’s short-lived work-related television series “Working” (TV). It almost could have been. So, despite my early confusion, was this movie a decent rent, or should it have stayed on the shelf at the video store?
None of the actors did a really standout job, but they didn’t do badly either. Office Space is a good example of middle-of-the-road acting – not too bad, but not something their going to win awards for either. Just kinda going through the paces. Livingston was probably the best of the bunch, but not by much. He did the carefree attitude pretty well, and that probably is what brought him a little further up the acting scale than the others.
Special appearances by Orlando Jones and John C. McGinley didn’t really up the acting either. Orlando, whose not really known for his stellar acting, and John both seemed to take a cue from the others and just go through the paces for the film.
Mike Judge, of “Beavis and Butthead” (TV) and “King of the Hill” (TV) fame, brings his unique humor to the workplace in Office Space, and seems to know exactly what working in a cubicle is like. He exploits the idiocy that most cubicle workers see day to day, and takes that to such a level that the sheer foolishness of it all can be seen clearly. You can almost imagine your office reacting the way these people do, at least on some level.
Mike is able to take a typical day in the life of any office peon, multiply by a factor of about 50, and still keep the familiarity that office workers will readily pick up on. It’s a good ploy, since it will keep a good majority of the audience attentive and make them much more sympathetic to the main characters.
Office Space is much more readily understood by the audience because of this rapport they feel with the character. This comradeship felt with the character is a major reason why it was a good idea for the director to pick these almost no-name actors to play these roles.
For example, if a well-known actor, such as Tom Cruise, were to be cast in the lead role, the audience would associate more with his other films, and his on-screen presence, than they would on the situation. Having big name actors would have defeated the entire film’s main theme: hey, this could happen to you (on a smaller scale)!
True, Tom Cruise did play the office guy in Jerry Maguire, but let’s compare and contrast, shall we? Jerry Maguire – high-powered, works in a plush office, able to start his own business when he decides his company is immoral. Peter – nobody listens to him, he works in a cubicle in a dead-end job and is so stuck in his mundane life he needs hypnosis to try to change it. Jerry Maguire – a film about unexpected romance between a wealthy, good-looking, powerful man and his secretary. Office Space – three guys want to get revenge on a company that’s screwed them over. See the difference?
Partly because of it’s mediocre cast, Office Space lets it’s setting do most of the comedy for it. With the camaraderie the audience feels for the actors right from the beginning (when we see them stuck in traffic on their way to work), the rest of the film can concentrate on keeping the audience interested, and it’s got a great setup in which to do that – a day at work in a mundane job. The audience relates to the characters, and laughs right along with them, all the while feeling that slight hint of familiarity about the whole situation.
If you work in a cubicle, Office Space has to be on your must see list (if you haven’t seen it already). Watch it today, and I’m sure it’ll be a hot topic around your water cooler tomorrow.