Thursday Movie Picks, sponsored as ever by Wandering Through the Shelves, is brought to us this week by the letter W – for movies set in the workplace.
Office gossip can be addictive. Most people wind up spending most of their time talking about work when they spend time with their colleagues outside the office. Actually, three of the Assholes work in the same place and- when we’re not arguing about movies we’re often reminiscing (or ranting) about work. Even people who claim to hate their job tend to find the comedy and drama of any workday pretty interesting. All you need to do is capture that environment in a relatable way and you’ve got a pretty good movie.
The Apartment (1960)- This has been one of my most significant Blind Spots until this week and it was worth the wait. Jack Lemmon plays an accountant at a big firm who’s just trying to get noticed. Once his superiors find out that he has a modest but nice apartment conveniently located on the Upper West Side, he becomes their go-to guy as they start borrowing his key so they can discreetly cheat on their wives. Director Billy Wilder has a lot to say about the compromises people make in the name of ambition and manages to make a movie that is still funny after all these years while he’s saying it. Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are as charming as can be too.
Office Space (1999)- Turning an animated short into a live action feature-length film could have been a disaster but Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge turned any old boring day into the office into one of the funniest comedies of the 90s. Re-watching it this week, I laughed loudest when Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh- in an effort to pacify the troops- announces that Friday will be Hawaiian Shirt Day. Around our office, they charge us two dollars to wear jeans on Friday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for poor old Milton though.
Margin Call (2011)- Yet another movie that I’m thankful to Wanderer for giving me an excuse to finally check out this week. Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Kevin Spacey (making my list two weeks in a row) play investment bankers who see the writing on the wall leading up to the 2008 Financial crisis and sit around wondering what to do about it. Director J. C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) knows how to set the mood and the performances are all stellar.
Up In The Air – Poor Ryan Bingham is so afraid of real life that he’s made sure his job keeps him in constant motion. His office may be at a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet but he spends a lot of time visiting other people’s workplaces to tell them they’re no longer employed. This is such a tough job that cash-strapped businesses are still willing to pay big bucks during a recession for him to do it in their place. He sees offices at their very worst, smells the fear and senses the instability, and is the receptacle for sometimes 20 years’ worth of pain and frustration. Our identities can be so wrapped up in our work, and in many ways, Ryan (George Clooney) is the prime example of this. Director Jason Reitman bravely tackles those creeping workplace notions of downsizing and obsolescence and asks some tough questions of the aging American workforce.
The Social Network – I love how you see the growth of the company here, the “offices” originally in a Harvard dorm room, and then graduating quite quickly to the impressive work space that was eventually needed. The movie recounts a very modern invention (hello, Facebook) but its workplace themes are as old as the first profession – loyalty, jealousy, theft, power, the complicated ownership of ideas. Whether friends or enemies, friended or unfriended, colleagues or competition, this project is always work, and everybody wants to get paid.
Brokeback Mountain – The classic office romance. They meet by the photocopier, lock eyes over the on, thwater cooler, exchange business cards in the elevator…or, you know, not. Don’t you wish your office looked like this? The scenery is breathtaking but make no mistake: these two cowboys meet at work, doing a job that’s not altogether welcoming to “their kind.” When their boss gets an inkling of what’s going on, the work dries up and the two spend the rest of their lives stealing secret moments and steeling themselves with memories of the best job they ever had.
Bonus pick: Monsters, Inc. Sully and Mike are about as close as two colleagues can be. Mike is the more ambitious of the two, but it’s Sully’s talent and skill that make them so successful. The workplace is originally competitive, and tinged with the fear of contamination (they do bio-hazardous work with children). It may be a cartoon about fuzzy monsters, but any joke about paperwork in triplicate is likely to land huge with adult audiences.
Since Matt took Office Space and Jay took Up in the Air, I am sticking to familiar territory and making my section an all-lawyer-movie workplace bonanza!
Philadelphia – a great movie about a lawyer getting kicked out of his workplace, and then going to his other workplace, the court, to try to make things right. Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington absolutely own this movie. I actually did not see this until last year and I should have seen it way sooner, because it’s excellent.
A Few Good Men – I saw this in theatres, I owned it on VHS, I own it on DVD, and one of my roommates in university recited the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech every time he had more than three drinks. And I could watch it again tomorrow. There are so many good lines and so many good characters in here that it remains enjoyable to this day. And again there are a few workplaces in here, namely the courts and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
The Firm – Tom Cruise is probably the best lawyer ever, at least if you go by his on-screen performances. He almost got Dawson and Downey freed and in the Firm he somehow outmaneuvers a whole team of crooked lawyers and the mob while still adhering to his strict ethical code. Plus he does a lot of really fast running in the Firm which is always the best part of any Tom Cruise performance. This movie feels really long, because it is, but it’s still a good watch.
Anyone had an office love? Office hook up? Office BFFs?