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The Unconventional Guide to Work

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7 of the Best Movies About Office Life

Is your team more like the crew of Star Trek, or do you sometimes feel as if you’re on the set of Jurassic Park? Many Hollywood films depict life in various offices and workspaces – some of the stories rely on comedic value, while others show a darker side of office life. While Hollywood never seeks to portray all the realities of work life, their interpretations serve as a commentary on working in the western world and the issues that can be part of that.

If you’re looking for a movie to watch this weekend, I’ve compiled this list of some of my favourite movies that feature some of the crazy, great, terrible and funny aspects of office life.

1. Office Space

Although it was originally a box-office flop, Office Space has endured with a cult-classic status for its dark, cathartic comedy. Based on Mike Judge’s Milton comic series, the film is a satirical depiction of the everyday lives of mid-1990s IT workers. Also, it features a printer-smashing scene that reaches the sympathetic hearts of office workers the world over.

(Also, this happened to be the first ever movie I went to see with a boy I liked. We basically sat bone still for 90 minutes without looking at each other. It was true love).

2. Clerks

Written and directed by Kevin Smith, Clerks is another black comedy film depicting a day in the lives of two store clerks and their acquaintances. It’s the first film of Smith’s to introduce the two characters Jay & Silent Bob. The movie is split into nine scene breaks, which symbolises the nine rings of Hell in Dante’s Inferno, which many office workers feel equate to their daily tasks. Shot for only $27,575 in the stores where the director worked in real life, it crossed more than $3 million in theatres, showing that people really do like to sympathise with slackers.

3. The Devil Wears Prada

In the cutthroat world of fashion editorial, Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly is top dog. She puts her poor intern Andrea (Anne Hathaway) through some of the most deplorable and ridiculous stunts, all in the name of grooming her for a future in the fashion editorial world. This film, based off the novel by Lauren Weisberger, offers a black comedy take on the real life world of fashion editorial, and particularly one of its more famous figures – Vogue’s Anna Wintour. It’s a fascinating look at both the office life of a magazine and a behind-the-scenes look at the cutthroat fashion world.

4. Working Girl

In this 1988 romantic comedy, Irish-American working-class gal Tess (Melanie Griffith) gets a job as a secretary for a financial executive named Katharine Parker (played by Sigourney Weaver). When Tess discovers Katharine intends to pass off one of her suggestions as her own, she transforms herself into a faux executive in order to get credit for her work. Along the way, she falls in love and gets herself into all sorts of crazy situations. Some of the comedic material might be a bit dated now that the workforce offers more gender equality, but for its time it was a great mix of laughs and social commentary.

5. Up in the Air

For many people, part of “working for the man” is the constant fear that you might be the next person to be downsized or let go. In Up in the Air, the plot follows Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) and Natalie Kenner (Anna Kendrick) as they go from corporation to corporation, helping companies to downsize and let people go.

The cool thing about this film is the way Ryan and Natalie are removed from the reality of corporate life. Their outsider perspective provides much of the comedy and delight of this film. Their observations show that behind these faceless organisations are real humans with complex lives and real hopes and dreams.

6. Glengarry Glen Ross

We all know that colleagues can help you get through the tough times with your sanity intact. But what happens when your co-workers are standing between you and your job security? In this film adapted by David Mamet from his play of the same name, the film follows four real estate salesman who are pitted against each other as they fight for the two jobs that will be remaining. Notorious for its profanity and depiction of the darker side of the corporate world, Glengarry Glen Ross was a commercial failure, but is still an exceptional film with a cast of brilliant actors.

7. Boiler Room

Nowadays, many firms are using inbound marketing techniques to attract customers by answering their questions and providing them with the content they need. But if you want to see how sales used to be done, then be prepared for the relentless, often unscrupulous tactics of the cold-calling centre at this stock brokerage firm. This film was inspired by Jordan belfort and his Stratton Oakmont firm, which also served as the inspiration for the film Wolf of Wall Street.

What films represent the office culture in your company?

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