Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Corporate Life on Film

I applied for a job with Time Warner yesterday. Unsure of why I think I just wanted to do the whole - submit your resume, prove you have a college degree, write a cover letter that somehow makes you look special--you know, that kind of thing. Anyways, it's a total farce but it got me thinking of some really good movies about corporate office life.

When Mike Judge's "Office Space" came out in 1999 it was received well but sat on the shelves. DVDs were only starting to take off and for some reason the film just got lost in the theater to shelf phase because not many people saw it right off the bat. Slowly, with the rise of shows like "The Office" and a huge boost in DVD sales in the early OO's the word was finally getting out. Now, "Office Space" has become engrained into our pop-culture psyches and people everywhere are familiar with the upbeat slacker corporate comedy. I've often wondered, will we ever be able to think of a stapler again without saying it like Milton?

"Office Space" is an imaginative movie. The main character, Peter (Ron Livingston) gets hypnotized into a completely relaxed state of mind to where he no longer is concerned about work, and then without warning the man doing the hypnotizing dies of a heart attack leaving Peter still hypnotized. He goes home and thus his shannanigans as the world's most uncaring corporate employee continue. Contrary to what you would imagine if you were to go to work completely not-giving-a-fuck our main guy Peter gets a promotion and doted on by his bosses for "thinking outside the box."

Welcome to 2009! Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" has been released to almost unanimous critical acclaim and it is going stronger than ever towards the Oscars. In many ways due to the success of "Office Space," a movie that didn't win any awards or hardly any critical acclaim when it was released is now, through the looking glass that is our current economic state an almost prophetic movie about corporate America.

Both films have their comedic moments, "Office Space" being comedy, of course has more yet both handle the ideas of out-sourcing, laying off workers, and loving/hating one's job while taking hold of its advantages. Ron Livingston's character and George Clooney's are both motivated by some huge payoff. Ron gets his payoff in the form of extorting the company he works for while Clooney takes advantage of airline perks and his company's enormous travel budget to secure a place amongst only the very top frequent fliers in the world. The best part about these two movies is that their stories are so plausible and something that is unanimous in the sense of "Who hasn't thought of screwing their boss over?" at some point or another, we've all been there.

In recent months I've done quite a bit of traveling and I think that's why "Up in the Air" appealed so much to me. There's a scene at the beginning where Clooney is telling the audience how to successfully use stereotypes to get through an airport security line. It's like he's spilling my own secret! On top of that the movie takes all this recession crap we've been dealing with for the last few years and puts it in context.

So that's about it. I'll probably never hear from my corporate overlords I submitted my resume to and that's probably a good thing. With so many things goes wrong with big banks, big firms, big everything, perhaps we got too far ahead of ourselves. Maybe we should think smaller? Bigger isn't always better and "too big to fail" is just another form of fear-mongering.


  1. To be honest, I have never seen Office Space. It's one of those movies that so many people talk about so often I'm afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype for me. Of course, that is a lame excuse. I do love Up in the Air though, it is a marvelous reflection of our times. Regardless, I'm always a touch skeptical whenever someone presents corporate life on film, because it will either be exceedingly pretentious like Wall Street, an Office Space-rip-off, or a film that is so boring that you just wonder why they didn't make something else.