Anyone still busy running the rat race in the working world would find that other than home, or the occasional weekend mall visit, most of our days are spent in none other than the good old workplace.
Whether it be working in finance or publishing, a massive conglomerate or a small fresh start-up; we can be sure that spending too much of our time in one place we would have come to know a thing or two about it.
It is no wonder that movies set in workplaces often do well in cinema as they provide a comedic escape that’s not too far from a reality we already inhabit. Here are 7 movies set in the workplace that you can surely relate to, each with lessons that could very well be of use in our off-screen world.
*Pssst…just make sure you’re not actually watching these when you are supposed to be working.
- The Intern (2015)
Living the retired life, 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) finds himself wanting more than reading newspapers and practicing Tai Chi. He applies for a senior citizen internship program at ‘About the Fit’, a fast-growing online fashion start-up, founded by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Initially reluctant to let Ben into her life, the two start to spend more time together and soon Jules finds herself calling Ben her ‘best friend’.
Lesson Learned: As Ben shows Jules that there is more to life than work, work and work; we should sometimes step out of our circle a little and connect with people from a different age group. They might just teach us something that’s never even crossed our minds!
- The Social Network (2010)
This is one for fans of Facebook… or really, just anyone who uses Facebook (i.e. all of us). In 2003, Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) begins developing a social networking site that would become known as our dearly beloved, Facebook. Six years later, he is one of the youngest billionaires in the world, but in the midst of his success, he soon finds himself facing two lawsuits: one from two brothers who claim he stole their idea, and another involving his former friend (Andrew Garfield).
Lesson Learned: Even if it means defying societal expectations, leave school if you must. With the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, it should be known that a successful career doesn’t really have much to do with assignments, exams and getting good grades. If you know what you want and how to get there, go for it!
- Up In The Air (2009)
George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizer whose job is to travel around the United States, breaking bad news to soon-to-be ex-employees. As part of his job, he often gives motivational speeches on unpacking the ‘backpack’ of life. According to Bingham, life should be free of burdensome relationships with people and things.
An idea from a young and ambitious new co-worker (Anna Kendrick) to conduct firings via webchat leads Bingham to take her on a tour, demonstrating the importance of face-to-face meetings with the people they have been hired to fire. Along the way, he develops a casual relationship with another frequent flier and businesswoman, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga).
Lesson Learned: Just as Bingham later learns in the movie, the ‘backpack’ metaphor doesn’t really work. Things and people, especially people, may be burdensome at times but they give our lives meaning and purpose.
- Horrible Bosses (2011)
We’ve all heard stories of horrible bosses. But they’re probably; well, hopefully, not as bad as the ones in this movie. Three friends (Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day), tired and frustrated at their overbearing, manipulative and abusive bosses, decide to murder them, thinking it would solve all their problems.
Lesson Learnt: As much as we might despise our bosses, take it from these guys that murder is never the answer. We should, however, not tolerate them. It’s our responsibility to take action and make sure our work life can be meaningful, safe and rewarding. Consider speaking out or if all else fails, work towards another job with a boss who would actually treat you like a human. Better yet, be your own boss! (Hint: Watch the sequel, Horrible Bosses 2)
- Office Space (1999)
Set in a 1990’s software company, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston) is a cubicle-dwelling corporate drone who hates his job. While undergoing hypnotherapy, he is left permanently in a blissful state when his therapist dies in the middle of the session. He then, with a whole change in character, refuses to work overtime and plays games at his desk. Little did he know that he would unintentionally charm his way up to a promotion.
Lesson Learned: There’s life outside the cubicle! Even if you don’t work in an actual cubicle, take it from Peter that sometimes, we just have to take work a little lighter. That way, we might actually enjoy what we do!
- The Internship (2013)
After two watch salesmen Billy McMahon (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Campbell (Owen Wilson) find themselves out of work, they end up joining the Google internship program despite being the complete opposite of technologically-savvy people. The movie follows them and their younger, more tech-skilled teammates through a series of challenges set by Google, with the winners being awarded full-time positions.
Lesson Learned: Don’t forget that everyone you work with brings value to the team. That’s what makes teamwork so great! Billy and Nick were first seen as ‘useless’ by their teammates but later, they prove that despite their lack of tech skills, they too have something to bring to the table.
- The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
You may find that The Intern would give a similar vibe with the familiar face of Anne Hathaway, but rather than playing the person in charge here, Hathaway plays Andy; a smart but sensible new graduate who dreams to be a writer. In the midst of job searching, she finds herself landing a position as junior personal assistant to Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the demanding editor-in-chief of Runway fashion magazine.
Despite her ridicule for the shallowness of the fashion industry, she gradually learns her responsibilities and, to the dismay of her boyfriend and friends, pays extra attention to her style and appearance. She soon impresses Miranda, earning her a place at the fall fashion shows in Paris, where she finds that she’s indeed becoming one of the girls she used to ridicule.
Lesson Learned: We should never forget who we are and what is important to us. In the case of Andy, even if you do end up getting caught in the glitz and glamour of high fashion Paris, know that you can always get back on track.
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