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Film Analysis on Office Space: Comedy and Drama

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The review is for the movie Office Space which was released in 1999. It was directed by Mike Judge and stars Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston and Gary Cole in lead roles. The movie can be counted under the genre of comedy and office drama and is based on the cartoon series by Mike Judge named Milton. The duration of the movie is about 90 minutes and the budget was $10 million. It was a box office flop with just making $12 million against its budget but sold well as home video. The film basically focuses on the lives of de-motivated workers of Initech, a software and IT company and their daily struggles.

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It addresses multiple themes that are very common within office premises till date such as de-motivating working conditions, monotony of work, tyranny of seniors, negligence, misunderstanding etc. the film focuses on the lives of Peter Gibbons, who is a programmer and annoyed co-workers Samir Nagheenanjar, Michael Bolton and Milton Waddams and their sufferings under their tyrant vice president Bill Lumbergh. Things take a turn when after a hypnotherapy session, Peter shows a change in his behaviour towards the organisation and his boss by ignoring his phone calls and ignoring his instructions, violating the dress code, skipping the day later, removing the cubicle that blocks his view from the window and other office protocols, followed by breaking up with his girlfriend Anne. Such an attitude infact impresses the consultants who were brought to help the company downsize or layoff people. After coming to know about Samir and Michael’s termination, they decide to infect the computer system with a virus and break a malfunctioning printer into pieces on their last day. It further depicts a romantic bond between Peter and Joanna, a restaurant waitress who bond over their similar loath of horrible management and their interest in a television series followed by their misunderstanding which is the turning point in the film. After the misunderstanding created between them, Peter realises that their virus has caused them to steal $300,000 in just a few days therefore making him feel guilty. Therefore he plans to confess his crime over a letter along with a cheque of an equivalent amount and slpis it under the office of Mr. Lumbergh which never reaches him as the office catches fire the next day which was caused by Milton.

The movie was a perfect depiction of concepts like Organisational Constraints as the workers were constantly under constraints like formal regulations in terms of their interactions and work behaviour and system imposed time constraints as they were under a constant threat of following the deadlines to not get terminated. Also, concepts of motivation can be applied here as to analyse the film in a way of giving different alternatives. For eg., Self Efficacy theory of motivation could have been applied by the managers to boost their confidence and make them believe that they are capable of doing a particular task. It was due to constant lack of trust of the Vice president among his employees that they were extremely de-motivated. Also, due to threats of termination and downsizing of the company, the company wasn’t following the expectancy theory that could have motivated the employees to work hard as they believe that their hard work shall pay off by good performance appraisal. On the contrary, due to the absenteeism of these theories, they were motivated to take negative steps like infecting the system with virus and breaking the office property, or even setting the building on fire. Such acts cause great damage to the organisation as depicted in the film. Also, the film depicted lack of interpersonal justice as Milton Waddams was treated extremely unjustly by his seniors and co-workers except Peter and Michael. He was fired 5 years back but due to a glitch in the payment system he received his pay, but when the management noticed the glitch, they still didn’t think it was important to inform him and kept ignoring him, leading to build a higher frustration due to such unjust behaviour. This clearly shows that he was not treated with dignity within the office which at the end motivated him to set the building on fire. But at the end the audience also encounters his complaining behaviour which could be a result of continuous negligence or even the cause of negligence.

Also, another alternative here could be job engagement as the workers were extremely bored of their monotonous work and therefore more of employee engagement could reduce this problem. Due to the lack of job redesign, the sudden changes in the attitude of peter caused astonishment among his boss and other workers, which was obvious in any case, but partly because the job structure was very stringent as well as their work places. Peter’s change in attitude can be described as a result of the hypnotism act from the perspective of the film, but from a management angle it can be due to the frustration built up due to the lack of job redesign and flexitime. Such things often cause the workers to get frustrated with their working hours and work structure causing them to behave quite oddly and in a real scenario this can be in the form of showing up late to the office, ignoring the basic protocols, not meeting with the deadlines, frequent change in mood and tone, less concentration, etc.

The film can be called as a classic and comic depiction of the ordinary white collar workers working in such high-tech firms. Though it depicts larger than life situations such as the acts of Peter and its positive consequences which is not possible in real life, but it was merely to give a comic touch to the movie, it was a satire on the real life situations. Also, the side story of Peter and Joanna shows how personal life and misunderstandings can affect ones work place behaviour as his behaviour and attitude towards his boss became more negative after he suspected her sleeping with him. Also, the character of Milton was personified for all those people who are underestimated and are believed to not be able to achieve anything in life but end up receiving surprising rewards. Therefore the film was a good description of all such little things that are often ignored and not taken seriously and the choice of actors was appropriate, especially the character was Milton Waddams and Peter Gibbons were completely justified by actors Stephen Root and Ron Livingston respectively. Other characters were also somehow justified by the actors but the music timings in the movie made it sound more dramatic. Therefore this movie can be recommended to all those who wish to watch a light hearted office satire or even if they wish to watch simple comedy.

Therefore, the movie did not cast a very deep impression on me as the problems depicted in the movie were quite day-to-day but it made the subject of Organisational Behaviour very relevant and applicable in real life. It depicted the consequences of the lack of application of OB concepts and hence its importance. Therefore, in terms of film, I would rate this movie as ‘C’ since it was a good film in terms of OB but not very entertaining piece of work.      

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