Archive for December, 2015

First, I want to thank both of the people who gave me some positive feedback on some of my recent posts. While I obviously enjoy positive feedback of any kind, written comments are always welcome, so that others can see that they are not the only ones reading these. I mean, there are so few of you. We might as well have a dialogue.

Anyway, since ’tis the season, I thought I would make this post about a modern holiday classic (modern classic… a new genre), Love Actually, a movie that almost everyone is probably familiar with, and one that can be kind of polarizing, even in my own mind (Was Andrew Lincoln being forlorn and lovestruck, or creepy and stalker-y?). When I first saw it, I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship that ended quite terribly, so the idea that love was actually all around, as Hugh Grant narrates at the beginning, was pretty much utter hogwash to me. My stance started to soften over the years, and I actually went through a period where my roommate and I used to watch this movie rather frequently, and not even always at Christmas. Now, having seen it countless times and over-thought it to death, I think I can speak honestly and  objectively about it. Well, maybe not completely objectively. It is a Christmas movie.

I will forego my usual plot synopsis on this one (dry your eyes), because everyone knows the movie, and there are about 8 love stories in here of varying levels of drama. There’s Colin, the obnoxious, young Brit who travels to America to meet woman because he thinks his accent will be cute over here (which totally works because he gets to sleep with January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert, and a Bond girl all at once), and there’s the other extreme of Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, whose marriage is pretty much in the toilet. I will say that one of the reasons this movie has settled so well with me is that juggling 8 plot-lines in one movie is extremely difficult, because most screenwriters (myself included) have a hard time dealing with one, so Christmas cookies to Richard Curtis to being able to handle all that. I’ll let a little of the timeline-jumping slide because this film must have been a real bugaboo to  write and edit, and he did a great job when all is said and done.

Another reason this movie has settled so well with me is that, over the years and stages of my sanity, I have been able to identify with different characters. There were times when I totally identified with Andrew Lincoln’s love-sick sidekick character. Not because I was in love with my best friend’s wife, because that never happened, but just that the object of his affection was unattainable, and we’ve all been there, I’m sure. And yeah, it seems weird that he makes a video entirely of her, and his giant- cue card expression of love  can be read as creepy. And what exactly would he have done if Chiwetel Ejiofor answered the door?


When I was thinking about writing this post, I thought about this storyline the most, because I’ve seen a lot of things written on it on the ‘nets. I decided that he wasn’t being creepy because we have no idea what the history is between him and Keira Knightley. Maybe he saw her first and his friend scooped her up. And it’s not like he had videos of her in the shower taken from their shrubs. In fact, from the dialogue between them, you can infer that he was keeping his distance after their wedding. She even confronts him on this, saying that she wants to be friends, even though she thinks he’s never really liked her. That’s why one of my favorite moments in the movie (and any movie) is when she is watching the wedding video he made and that realization washes across her face when she finally grasps that he is in love with her. Now, she is left to wonder what-might-have-been, and he is left to think, “Crap. She knows.” And that friendship she was asking for is probably out the window. Lincoln gets his closure in the end, in my opinion, because he does tell her how he truly feels, and it’s not like he kidnapped her or anything. He had his cathartic moment, she gave him a little kiss to say, “Dude, you’re all right, and if I wasn’t married, I’d hit that.” And he realized that, as he said, it was, “Enough.” He is allowed to move on with his life.

Which is probably more than we can say for Emma Thompson’s rather sad housewife. They really pile it on this poor woman, even going so far as to make the actress wear padding to make her look more like a middle-aged homebody. They also make her the sister of Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister just to make her life seem more meaningless. Fortunately, he shows up just in the nick of time to lift her spirits in one of those Festivus Miracle-type moments.

But what really happened here? Well, Alan Rickman is blatantly told by his new assistant that she lusts after him. After several advances, his resolve begins to weaken, and he buys her an expensive necklace, which Thompson finds in his coat pocket and thinks is for her. When she opens her gift and finds a decidedly less-expensive CD, Thompson knows what’s going on. We then see the beautiful assistant in her bedroom, in her underwear, the bed un-made behind her, putting on the necklace. Now, I’m no sleuth, but it looks to me like Alan Rickman is schtupping his secretary. And at the very least, he bought her a very expensive necklace. My young, naive self used to think that he stopped just short of actually sleeping with her, but another part of a movie settling with you is that now that I’m older and wiser, and grumpier, I think they totally did it. Either way, it’s not good, and let me say right here that Alan Rickman is probably the only person awesome enough to play this part and not make you totally hate him.


Another thing my older self does now that my younger self did not was relate to Emma Thompson a little more. When she confronts her husband about the necklace that she did not receive, she wonders out loud to him if the necklace was “just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and love.” The “worst of all” part is the part that gets me. This is a woman who is married this man, has two children with him, and probably believes her life to be complete, but now knows that he either had an affair or contemplated it. She then asks him if he would stay in the marriage, knowing that, “life would always be a little bit worse.” That’s the real bummer, isn’t it? Much like Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson’s life is different, and “a little bit worse” to boot. Now, she obviously stays with him on some level, because she picks him up at the airport at the end, but when he asks how she’s doing, she repeats over and over that she is fine, although she is clearly not. Clearly, her life is a little bit worse.

But the one “love” story that every Matt Dursin stage can identify with (especially the older, wiser, grumpier one) is Bill Nighy’s aging rocker, Billy Mack. Apparently, in England, the #1 song on the charts at Christmas is a big deal, and this year, Billy is trying to make a comeback by changing the lyrics to The Troggs’ “Love is all Around,”to “Christmas is all Around.” Even he knows that this is a completely ridiculous idea, he go ahead and promotes it all over the country, making fun of his portly manager, Joe, every chance he gets. After Billy does attain the #1 song on Christmas, he gets invited to a glamorous party at “Elton’s,” who is obviously Elton John, leaving Joe to celebrate the holiday alone. Billy soon realizes his mistake and leaves the party so he can spend Christmas with Joe, realizing that Billy has spent the majority of his adult life with him, and that Joe is, in fact, the love of his life. They decide to get drunk and watch porn to celebrate. Forget “From here to Eternity” or whatever. This may be the greatest love story in the history of cinema.


On the DVD commentary, Richard Curtis explained that the inspiration of this storyline came from his relationship with Rowan Atkinson, who was famous for playing Mr. Bean and makes a hilarious cameo in “Love Actually” as the sales associate who excessively wraps Alan Rickman’s scandalous necklace. Curtis said that after working with Atkinson for years, and staying in hotels with him and sharing so many hours together, he realized that they had spent more time with each other then their own families. And he wasn’t lamenting it at all, because he also realized that he truly loved Rowan in a very real sense. Not romantically, but truly and probably deeply. Anyone who has life-long friends, as I have, can understand this kind of bond that develops over time. I have people that I have been good friends with for over 30 years, and it is hard for other people to understand that kind of love. But it’s there.

Supposedly, the ancient Greeks has six words for “love,” representing the various kinds. For example, “Agape” meant “a love for everyone,” while “Eros” translated roughly to “sexual “passion.” I think Love Actually covers them all and more, between Billy Mack and Joe, Liam Neeson and his step-son, or Laura Linney and her love for her brother. It also adds in a love for Christmas. There are so many times in the movie where the characters realize that Christmas is a time for love, and that’s kind of like The Force binding the universe together.Love-Actually-250x250

One of Andrew Lincoln’s cards to Keira Knightley says, “At Christmas you tell the truth.” Maybe it is this Christmas honesty that makes it hard for even someone like me to be grumpy and analytical about this movie.This one was good when I first saw it, it was good a few years later, and it’s still good, no matter which Matt Dursin is watching.

Last night, I put in the DVD of Return of the Jedi, and I was immediately awash with feelings of nostalgia for the first time I saw that movie in theaters back in 1983. My whole family went, and it was a packed house, and what I remember most (I was only 7) was how cool it was when the whole audience erupted in applause when the title screen appeared the music of John Williams filled their ears. It was probably my first time experiencing one of those shared moments like that. I imagine it will be a similar feeling in about a week, when The Force Awakens plays to a hungry audience. (**2022 Update: It wasn’t**)

Then, harsh reality struck; I’ve had a feeling like this before. Strangely similar, in fact. Actually, almost exactly the same amount of anticipation I am experiencing now came over me in 1999, when everyone I knew was talking about the first new Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi: The Phantom Menace. Yes, perhaps the worst settling movie of all time.

Over the ensuing sixteen years, I’ve heard a lot of differing opinions of this movie, as well as its two sequel-prequels. I’ve known people who are so mad that they say that they don’t even exist, or that George Lucas raped their childhood.  Those are one extreme, obviously, because I’ve also come across people who think that they were okay, and if you take the entire story (all six of them) as a whole, it’s an epic hero’s journey. And when I saw The Phantom Menace re-release in 3-D a few years ago, my fellow theater-goers applauded at the end.  Perhaps because it was over, but it was still applause.

In some circles, the Star Wars prequels probably evoke more emotion than any film series in history.  People certainly talk about them, positively or negatively, more than any saga in my life (maybe even the original Star Wars trilogy.)  But what really was going on there?  Certainly because of how beloved the original trilogy is, the new trilogy had an uphill climb anyway, but not only did they not live up to the expectations, the prequel trilogy rolled down the hill and crashed.  But why?  And more importantly, how?  Everyone clearly has their own opinions, but I think enough time has passed now, and with three new films on the way, the first of which will be here in a matter of days, that it’s time to cut open the body and examine the cause of death. And thus, I give you the Biggest Burrito Movie of them all: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Basically, The Phantom Menace runs off the rails two sentences into the opening crawl.  The Trade Federation?  The planet Naboo?  Who the Hell cares?  After a few minutes, we see our heroes, the Jedi Knights, one of them being young Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom Star Wars geeks should actually be happy to see.  There is a mention by the cowardly villains that the Jedi are bad news, although we don’t really know what great fighters they are yet.  They attempt to rub the Jedi out, but obviously fail (To think, all the needless suffering could have ended right then.) Obi-Wan and his Jedi mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn, flee the evil frog guy’s ship and retreat to the planet Naboo below, which is apparently a planet we are supposed to care about because this Trade Federation is somehow repressing them.  Things go from bad to annoying as the Jedi soon encounter and mysteriously befriend Jar-Jar Binks, one of the most reviled characters in over a century of cinema.  Jar-Jar takes them to his subterranean hometown of Gungan City, and they meet his king, Boss Nass, who basically sounds like Big Bird on smack.  None of this seems to have real purpose except to be an elaborate introduction of Boss Nass, a character that we see three times in the whole saga.

I’m going to break from the riveting plot synopsis to talk a little about Jar Jar Binks. Seriously, is there a more polarizing character in all of history? Love him or hate him (I hate him, but I suppose someone must love him), he represents all that is wrong with the prequel trilogy: he is clumsy, he blathers on-and-on about nothing, and even though he is seemingly pointless, it all works out for him in the end.

But, as I said, he is polarizing. Some people think he’s harmless, and some others (including this Reddit user) who think that he is actually a Sith Lord who is pulling all the strings behind-the-scenes, and that Lucas’ master plan all along was for him to be revealed as the big baddie, until everyone simply hated him and never wanted to see him again, so George shoe-horned Count Dooku in. While the Jar Jar Theory couldn’t have been much worse than what they actually did, I’m glad they didn’t go that route. There was really no need to give Jar Jar any more screen time. And fear not, Jar Jar-haters. J.J. Abrams has heard your plea, and he has stated that the reviled character will not be appearing in The Force Awakens. So who cares if he was a Sith Lord or not?


As is the theme with the entire film, nothing of note happens and Jar-Jar and his Jedi companions head back to the surface to rescue the Queen of Naboo, Amidala, whom we were told was a good person in need of rescue earlier in the movie, but we never saw any evidence of wrong-doing, so who knows?  They actually very easily rescue her, and decide to take her to the planet Coruscant, where she can stand before the Imperial Senate and ask them to tell the evil froggy bad guys to basically stop being evil. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the two Jedi were probably enough to whip the bad guys and their stupid droids all by themselves, but we have a lot of time to fill here.

Long hours seem to pass, and the end result is that our heroes are attacked and must land on Tatooine, the future home of Luke Skywalker, to repair their ship. Qui-Gon then makes a twisted deal with a flying rodent named Watto for some spare parts.  The deal involves Watto’s slave boy, Anakin Skywalker (the future Darth Vader), whom Qui-Gon has deduced is The Chosen One, and will become the greatest Jedi ever. Anakin, despite being a toddler, is somehow a great pilot, so he is tasked with winning the ship parts in what amounts to a really long NASCAR race, complete with incredibly annoying Chris Berman-like commentators. The similarities are so rich, they should have just gotten him to do the voices.

As part of Qui-Gon’s compulsive gambling, Anakin wins the race, the parts, and his freedom, and is convinced to leave his mother to go with these virtual strangers to Coruscant to learn the ways of The Force.  He says good-bye to Mom and all the other slaves (who Qui-Gon decided weren’t worth the effort. I guess Anakin literally is The Chosen One), gets on the ship and is off to meet his destiny.  He begins to form a bond with Padme, who is apparently the Queen’s hand-maiden, although anyone familiar with the casting of the movie knew right away that it was all a big farce and that Padme is in fact the Queen, since we were all told that Natalie Portman was playing a Queen. There are apparently whole websites devoted to fans theorizing when it was Portman and when it was Keira Knightley and I guess Rose Byrne. Personally, I’m not worrying about it (or even linking it. Sorry.)

When they reach Coruscant,” the Queen” pleads her case, although nothing seems to come of it (again.) Meanwhile, Qui-Gon asks the Jedi Council if he can train Anakin, but they don’t believe he’s anything special, so Qui-Gon reckons he’ll do it anyway. So nothing comes from that meeting, either.

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Amidala then decides, although she’s not really the Queen (or is she?), that she must return to her repressed home planet and save it from the evil frogs.  The Jedi are instructed by their bosses to return with her to keep her safe, and they decide to bring the decidedly-unspecial Anakin with them. So basically, the same poor assholes that just flew across the galaxy and sat around on a desert planet forever in order to get to Corusant have accomplished nothing and now have to turn around and go back to fight a battle that they probably could have won before they left and spared us a whole lot of talking. And wipes.

The Battle for Naboo is actually the best part of the movie, although two-thirds of it is not very good.  The battle unfolds on three stages, with some Naboo pilots waging war in space, trying to knock out the droid ship, which is no Star Destroyer, let me tell you. This battle isn’t very good because we don’t know who any of these pilots are.  In the second battle, we see Jar Jar Binks, suddenly a general, leading his fishy friends into combat against said droids.  This is also not very good because it has Jar Jar on the screen, and I would rather gouge out my eyeballs with a light saber than watch him fumble around on a battlefield, and yet somehow still take out several droids.

The third part of the battle sees Qui Gon and Obi-Wan battle Darth Maul in probably the best light saber duel ever seen.  It is something to marvel, and it would probably be remembered more fondly if there wasn’t two hours of crap before it.  Ray Park as Darth Maul almost single-handedly saved the whole movie, and he was on the screen for all of five minutes and didn’t even have any real dialogue. His voice was dubbed over, and even that was only three lines. And remember what I said earlier about Boss Nass having all that time? Couldn’t we have cut a few chunks and given them to Darth Maul?

Still, for the brief period he’s on screen, Maul flips around, his double-sided light saber flashing like crazy, kicking the hell out of Obi-Wan and then killing Qui-Gon right in front of his helpless pupil, prompting the requisite Star Wars cry of “Nnnnnooooooo!!!!” It’s just too bad that there was no build-up to this duel, no prior meeting between Maul and Kenobi, and no reason to believe why this guy was a bad guy other than he wears a black cape.

Meanwhile, little Anakin manages to get into the space battle, flies his ship into the hangar of the droid ship (the same one that about 20 Naboo fighters have been trying to destroy) and ACCIDENTALLY fires his torpedoes into the hangar wall, naturally starting a chain reaction that destroys the whole ship, thus rendering all the battle droids inert (in typical sci-fi cop-out fashion) and simultaneously ensuring victory for the Gungans, as well.  I could have almost bought all that as simple feel-good cheese, if Anakin didn’t actually say “Oooops” after he fired the torpedoes.  Somehow, even though he was made aware of the entire mission, the fact that he made it into the main bad guys’ ship and didn’t actually mean to blow it up made the whole thing even worse.

In the aftermath, Obi-Wan, having cut Maul in two but somehow not killing him, swears to his dying master to train Anakin in the ways of The Force. Then, the soon-to-be Emperor takes his place as Chancellor of the Senate, although I’m not sure if we’re supposed to know that, and Naboo is, well, about as irrelevant as it was at the beginning. We do learn, however, that even though Obi-Wan destroyed one Sith-Lord, that “always two there are.” Sith Lords are like these movies: one isn’t bad enough.

Unfortunately, like Anakin himself, this one bad movie started the whole series down the path to the Dark Side. The problems with this movie are many, and as I stated earlier, they start right at the opening crawl. “Crawl” is also an appropriate term for the movie’s pace, as it is basically a lot of people talking between wipes. Seriously, it’s like a child’s Powerpoint presentation. The few scenes that don’t involve a nice, long chat are imbued with childish Lucas tropes, like the young hero-in-training following the lead of the wise, old master who can act circles around him.

But even with all that, my main problem is that it could have been a lot better, and if George wanted to make it different than the original trilogy, he could have easily done that and accomplish all his story goals. He could have had Darth Maul do bad things, like hurt the people of Naboo, instead of just saying that they were being hurt. He could have had the Jedi do good things, like, free slaves. Last I checked, slavery was not cool, but when presented with the option, Qui-Gon Jinn clearly states, “I did not come here to free slaves.” Wha-huh? What kind of hero is he, anyway? Why let a planet full of slaves stay enslaved, but take one stupid kid with you? Basically, when your main character doesn’t want to free slaves, your main heroine keeps putting her lookalike hand-maidens in danger, and the child who is supposed to be the future savior of the universe is an annoying brat who wins battles by accident, it’s kind of hard not to root for Darth Maul in this one. Well, I guess those three minutes or so were worth it, right?


As I said at the beginning, however, I was really, really looking forward to this movie when it came out, similar to how I feel now about The Force Awakens, and that scares me a little, but it would be tough for it to be as bad as Phantom Menace.  While I think that anticipation made me gloss over a lot of these faults at the time, there were certainly plenty of them. That is probably why it settled so badly. It was a long way down.

One simple sentence: “I don’t like my job, and I don’t think I’m gonna go anymore.”

Make sure you put the accent on “go,” as Ron Livingston’s Peter Gibbons did in the 90’s workplace comedy brought to us by the masterful Mike Judge, Office Space.

This isn’t a movie that I have recently re-discovered, like some of my previous posts, but this is one that was always near-and-dear to my heart. When I first saw it in 1999, I loved it for the corporate zaniness, the Superman III-referencing thievery, and the awesome printer beat-down scene. But it was released in 1999, and I was just a spry 22 year-old, cock-eyed optimist with dreams of becoming the next Tarantino. I was actually still working two part-time jobs at the time, so I really couldn’t identify with the premise. In fact, even when I actually got a “real” job later that year, I didn’t have to deal with the cubicle-Hell madness that Peter and his colleagues do in the movie.

Alas, it is 2022, and I stand before you a man of 46, my job has changed a few times, and I have gotten a little more Office Space in my life than I ever wanted. I don’t have a boss like Bill Lumberg, but I am waiting for the day when I am asked to move my desk into the basement like poor Milton. As it is, I have an office that is basically a server room, and I do have a red Swingline stapler.


So, what’s all the hub-bub about? Well, Office Space follows Peter and his hapless co-workers , Michael Bolton and Samir Nagheenanajar (two of the best character names in movie history) as they trudge through life at Initech, a software company that is in the process of updating all their bank software for the year 2000 switch (remember that whole fracas?) Peter is annoyed at the clamor that arises when he makes one minor mistake, like not attaching a cover sheet to his TPS reports, and for being asked to work on the weekend. Meanwhile Michael Bolton has daily squabbles with the office printer. Samir is equally unhappy, but more because no one can pronounce his name.


To try and alleviate his malaise, Peter’s girlfriend takes him to an Occupational Hypnotherapist, who tries hypnotizing his blues away. Unfortunately, right as Peter is falling under, the hypnotherapist has a fatal heart attack and dies, leaving Peter in a happy haze. He awakens the next morning, er, afternoon, to several messages from his boss, asking him why he isn’t at work. He also receives a call from his girlfriend, who was wondering the same thing. Peter simply responds that he didn’t feel like going in. While she berates him for flaking out, he simply hangs up on her, effectively ending the relationship (very effectively.) Peter then hilariously falls back into bed while she screams into his answering machine that she’s been cheating on him.

The following week, Peter still forgoes work, deciding instead to courageously ask out the local waitress, Joanna, played by Jennifer Aniston in full-on Friends mode. It is during this date that we learn of Peter’s epiphany: he doesn’t like his job, and he doesn’t think he’s going to go anymore.

Meanwhile, Initech has hired two consultants, “The Bobs,” played brilliantly by John C. McGinly and Cheers‘ Paul Wilson, to trim the fat at the company. As they go through the staff, they determine that Michael and Samir are expendable, and Milton, the mumbly, stapler-obsessed office wierdo played by Stephen Root, who was laid off but still receives a paycheck, will no longer receive it, so the problem “will work itself out.” Oddly enough, even though Peter, in his newfound zen-state, told them how much he dislikes working there and how he hates having 8 bosses and how no matter how hard he works, his pay never increases, The Bobs feel he’s worthy of a promotion.

Now super-angry at the company, Peter, Michael and Samir pull the old “Superman III” heist, where they run a virus in the company’s computer system that will drop tenths of a penny into an account several million times, so that over a few years they will make a lot of money. This, of course, backfires, and the transfer takes hours instead of years. After getting blamed by his friends for the whole debacle, Peter decides to return the money and take the fall. Fortunately, Milton finds the returned money before his bosses do, and sets the building on fire, as revenge for his boss stealing his red Swingline stapler (among other things. Maybe being fired, but probably the stapler.) Peter ends up taking a job in construction, enjoying the outdoors. Michael and Samir go to work for the competing software company, while Milton ends up on a beach resort, having absconded with all their money.

But that’s just the surface stuff. The part that really resonates with me now that I missed back in ’99 is the conversation Peter has with the two consultants.  After telling them comically that he comes in 15 minutes late every day, and then spaces out for an hour, staring at his desk to appear to be working, the conversation then turns to what I feel is the film’s main message, as much as a comedy can have a message (Remember, nothing is written into a movie by accident.) Peter illustrates that the reason he hates his job isn’t because he’s lazy, but that he doesn’t care. As he so eloquently puts it, it’s, “a problem of motivation,” meaning if he works really hard and the company makes more money, he still doesn’t see any of it in his check. He points out how annoying it is to have all 8 of his bosses come down on him for making one small mistake. And the part where I feel Mike Judge was really trying to get his point across, Peter closes his rant with:

That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.

I won’t say that he is speaking for all of us, but let’s face, he’s speaking for a lot of us. I’m pretty sure that for every person who just loves their job, there’s one or two who are just doing it to not get hassled (or if you’re like me, for health insurance.) Think about it; how many people do you know who do their job just hard enough not to get fired, or because they’re afraid not to work, or most likely just for the money? What does it say about the world we live in when there are literally thousands of employed people who at this very moment are probably only working just hard enough not to get fired? And I’m not knocking them. They are probably all like Peter Gibbons in that no matter how hard they work, they won’t see another dime in their paycheck. This isn’t exactly an epic revelation, I know, but it’s still something that hasn’t been put into words quite as succinctly as it is in this movie. And when you think about it, it does kind of suck. The American Dream of getting a good education to get a job and get married and buy a house and have kids and then retire after 30-some years kind of seems wasteful when you may have spent most of that time working just hard enough not to get fired.

The movie tacks on a sort of Hollywood Ending by having Peter admit to Joanna that he doesn’t know why he can’t just go to work and be happy. Joanna echoes his statement by saying that’s just what people do. Basically, you find something you sort of like and soldier on. Now, according to the DVD extras, Judge faced a lot of studio backlash while making this movie, and I’m willing to bet my meager salary which doesn’t go up when I work really hard that these lines were shoe-horned in at the behest of the 20th Century Fox people, who just needed their hero to not seem so bad. The weird thing is that Joanna also had a bout with her boss (played by Judge himself, in his most Hank Hill-iness) regarding her uniform. In a total T.G.I. Friday’s send-off, Joanna is required to wear 15 “pieces of flair,” or buttons to the non-corporate folks, on her person every shift. She gets spoken to for not “expressing herself” enough, because she is wearing only the required 15 pieces. Joanna is chastised for only doing the bare minimum, so for her, even doing what she’s supposed to isn’t enough. She eventually quits the job, expressing herself by flipping off her boss. However, at the end of the movie, we learn that she has gotten another waitress job at a competing restaurant. Presumably, there is no flair involved, but I still find it odd that they wouldn’t find something else for her to do. Maybe It was a comment on Jennifer Anniston always playing waitresses.

That’s not the final word on the matter, though. As I said, Peter takes a job in construction, and he gets a gig cleaning up the remains of the Initech fire. Michael and Samir stop by to check in on him, and it is hinted that he took the job just to make sure that there was no evidence linking them to the missing money. However, when they say that they are working for another software company, and they can get him a job there, he flatly turns them down. This, I feel, is how Mike Judge really wanted to end things. While Joanna and Samir and Michael have their lanes, and ended up pretty much where they were at the start of the movie, Peter is a changed man. He is smiling about working outdoors, having brought his lunch in a pail, and he presumably doesn’t have eight bosses. In a way, he took Joanna’s advice to find something he likes and soldier on, but it was a completely different type of work. A different lane, you could say. And the OT is probably pretty nice, so that whole work harder for no more money debate is out the window.

See, we still have to work for money, right? Office Space tackles that topic very smartly when the characters debate that silly test most high-schoolers take about what they would do if they had a million dollars. Michael rightly posits that the entire concept is ridiculous, because no one would put down janitor, because no one would clean toilets if they had a million dollars. Peter’s neighbor Lawrence, eloquently states that if he had a million dollars, he would simply do “two chicks at the same time, man.” Lawrence is obviously the smartest person in the movie.


When Peter says that, if he had a million dollars, he would do absolutely nothing, Lawrence the Wise points out that you don’t need a million dollars to do that, as his cousin is broke and he “don’t do shit.”

I suppose that is what the movie has taught me as it has settled. It’s not about one man’s quest to do nothing, or a botched, Superman III-style heist, or even about three guys slaving away for a faceless corporation. It is about all that stuff, but also a lot more. The main idea is, as the tagline at the bottom of the poster says, “Work Sucks.” It sucks when you have to answer to eight bosses. It sucks to comply to the uniform requirements and still get criticized for it. It sucks that the magazine salesman, who is a former programmer for Initech‘s competitor, makes more money selling subscriptions door-to-door than he ever did as a corporate worker bee. It all sucks. Even the dream job is still hard work. So, what’s the answer? I’m not sure. Maybe find something you like and stick with it?

Maybe the studio had it right, after all.