Count me as one of those that really admire (most) of this film.
My disappointments: I don't like the fire hose volume of profanity and don't believe it represents real life as much as those justifying it want to pretend it does. And there is one rather disturbing sex scene that could have been handled differently to make the same point. These kinds of scenes aren't "real" and certainly can't compete with movies made to arouse. So, why have them?
Christian Slater is terrific as the deeply disturbed Bob Maconel. He is a cipher and used as an office whipping boy by a couple of low-level low-quality bullies passing for managers. Like many office drones, he dreams about a woman at the office. His dreamgirl is named Vanessa who notices the ceramic bobble hula girl he keeps on his cubicle, but she is too absorbed in her blazing rocket of a career to even pay attention to real people in anything but a passing manner. But she has a smile that lights up a room, as the movie keeps noting.
Bob takes his lunch on a spot where he has a view of the company skyscraper and has a little plastic box with a button so he can fantasize blowing the building to kingdom come. More disturbingly, he has a real gun with real bullets that he ritualistically loads by naming who each bullet is for. But he hasn't been able to bring himself to pull the trigger. During one performance of his rite he drops a bullet and while he is on the floor a gun is fired and people start dropping while others scream. An old man has carried out Bob's fantasy and they strike up a conversation that ends up with Bob emptying his gun in the old man.
The rest of the movie teases out how Bob is treated as a hero, is promoted, and his connection with Vanessa who was made a quadriplegic in the shooting (the shooter thought she was someone else). So, Bob has this secret that others approach but no one will really confront. Even the company shrink appears only to be be circling the core issues.
William H. Macy plays the CEO, Gene Shelby. Vanessa was an up and coming VP who reported directly to him and their relationship combined the very personal with the professional. Gene isn't really a bad guy, but just a ordinarily flawed guy running a company. Others project their own fantasies and frustrations onto him and that is a quite realistic aspect of the film. One funny aspect of the film is that Gene's desk is made up of multiple tables that are, together, somewhat larger than Rhode Island.
The way the movie is filmed handles the madness and melting realities very well. I had not seen these kinds of visual symbols before and thought they were quite effective.
Why some call this a comedy or a black comedy is beyond me. Yes, there are some comic moments, but the overall intent of the movie is serious. True, Bob carries on mutual conversations with his goldfish, but what do you expect such an isolated man who has drifted into madness to do?
I think this is a very effective movie and recommend it for the right audience (keeping my caveats in mind). For me, it was a Christian Slater tour-de-force.
Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Ann Arbor, MI