Tag: clockwatchers

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A scene from "Office Space", which was likely influenced by "Clockwatchers"

Dual Doldrums: “Office Space” (1999) vs. “Clockwatchers” (1997)

Shortly before cult classic Office Space (1999) hit the scene, another late 90s critique of corporate American work culture premiered at Sundance and won a handful of festival prizes, only to fade into obscurity – that was Jill Sprecher’s debut independent film Clockwatchers (1997), a drama focusing on a group of female temps at a credit company. Seen as a precursor to, and “female version” of, Mike Judge’s satirical comedy (if anything, it’s the other way around), it was met with some critical acclaim but has yet to receive its due, especially in the light of Office Space’s reputation. Despite being different films, tonally, their manifest similarities in terms of themes and subject matter invite comparison, with the more serious-minded Clockwatchers sometimes hailed as the superior work. Even Roger Ebert, in his review of Office Space, views the two as companion pieces, but does not go into why exactly he rated the drama (he calls it a comedy, but it’s really more of a drama; even the filmmaker herself concurs) a half-star higher. It’s certainly tempting to scale the two in such a way: Clockwatcher’s slower-paced, European arthouse-style aesthetic seems the more highbrow affair, as opposed to the zany, endlessly quotable, hip-hop-tracked Office Space. I can imagine artsy young people coming to Sprecher’s debut for the first time and denigrating Office Space as the lesser film, especially since its male centric POV is out of vogue in today’s cultural landscape. Is it even useful, however, to see the two films in terms of male vs. female perspectives in a soulless work environment? On the surface, it would seem so, but such interpretations skim over the films’ deeper workings and how Sprecher and Judge have their characters resolve – or be subsumed by – their struggles, sex bedamned. Both films, actually, are character-driven, and while Clockwatchers is certainly more introspective and realistic, it’s not without its missteps – the price for its dramatic ambitions, whereas Office Space gets a lot of leeway due to its nature as a satire. […]