Next to Johnny “Take This Job and Shove It” Paycheck, director Mike Judge may be the closest thing we have to a patron saint of crappy jobs.
His 1999 movie Office Space — about company workers who rebel against their miserly boss — was recently ranked number one in a poll of best workplace comedies ever, and this weekend his film Extract details life inside a factory.
He’s the man who made wearing “37 piece of flair” on a restaurant uniform synonymous with the worst of minimum wage life. For anyone who’s ever had a job they hated — and who hasn’t? — Mike Judge is the go-to movie guy.
When he put the words “I don’t like my job, and I do’'t think I’m gonna go anymore,” into Ron Livingston’s mouth in Office Space, he was voicing a thought that has raced through all our minds at least once.
The only cinematic workplace worse than the ones Judge has conjured up has to be the real estate office in Glengarry Glen Ross. The story is simple. It shows two days in the lives of four salesmen, two of whom will be fired by week’s end if their sales aren’t high enough.
Fighting for their lives the four main salesmen — Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Al Pacino and Alan Arkin — redefine ruthlessness. Long John Silver wasn’t as cutthroat as these guys and the language they use would give any HR department a collective coronary. The vernacular was so rough during production the actors referred to the film as Death of a F*&@in’ Salesman.
A bit more genteel, language wise at least, is 1980’s Nine to Five. In our era of flexi-time hours the name is a bit of an anachronism, but 8:15 to 4:30 just doesn’t have the same ring. This story of sexual harassment, the glass ceiling that faced working women and a “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” boss spawned not only a hit single, but also a television show and a hit Broadway show.
Hollywood’s use of the workplace as a setting is a no brainer; there’s interaction between diverse characters, which means plenty of conflict and it’s something we can all relate to.
Everyone at one time or another has had a job they hated, but perhaps the real reason we watch these movies and others like Clerks and Modern Times is that no matter what your job, someone, on film at least, has it worse than you.
– Richard Crouse’s Movie Show can be seen every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on the E! Channel; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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