Over the past few years, we’ve seen the traditional family comedies, films like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, replaced with films that have been aimed at a more adult market. The first to be released in Australia this holiday season has been Office Christmas Party from comedy directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck. Together the pair has been able to put together a fantastic ensemble cast consisting of some of the biggest comedy stars of the last few years and it doesn’t take talking to Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston very long to see that they enjoyed every minute of making the film.
No stranger to comedy Bateman, who has been in films such as Horrible Bosses and Identity Thief, and Bateman admits that it was who he knew in the comedy world that got him the plum role of playing lovable loser Josh in the film. “Will and Josh and I are very close,” he explains. “We’ve done a film together and we’ve been friends since then so I think that there wasn’t really a big mystery to them of what it is that I do or what I would bring to this so I think that because they had been with the project for so long that they knew exactly what they would be getting with me and if they wanted that or not, so when they asked me to do it they figured ‘oh he will do this thing and that’s what we want so let’s get him to do that.”
Of course, the other person who wasn’t a stranger to Bateman on set was Jennifer Aniston who has now appeared in a number of films including two Horrible Bosses films, and Bateman says that was an advantage when it came to Office Christmas Party. “Jennifer and I have known each other for twenty years now… maybe more. We’re very close, and this is like any profession if you get to work with your friends that is something that you look to do and I hope this certainly isn’t the last time we work together. I think it is five, or maybe fourth or sixth movies that we have done together and hopefully, we are only halfway done.”
When asked about the premise of Office Christmas Party Bateman laughs at how simple it is. “Will and Josh have worked on this project for so long, and they have such a clear idea what they want to bring to the audience with it, right there in the title there’s a promise of an ensemble… Office Christmas Party… it’s basically all you need to know. There’s a Christmas Party happening in an office which implies a number of people and because it is an R-Rated comedy things are going to go sideways pretty quick, and you hope that there is funny people driving that car off the road and that literally happens in this movie. It’s a great group, and my character is Josh and he’s not too dissimilar to characters that I have played in the past. There is a necessary element in every comedy where you need something that blends into an obscure world, so something like a ‘us’ – the normal guy, the every guy, the straight man, the protagonist and that is kind of Josh in this movie. He is somebody that is trying to keep the office running at a good clip, being productive and that everything stays professional. If you don’t have that kind of element then you have Martians on Mars, and there isn’t really anything that special about that, it’s only weird when they come down to Earth. So my character Josh and of course Tracy and Claire are faced with the fact that their branch is going to be shut down or severely downsized by Jennifer Aniston’s character who happens to be the sister of T.J. And so in an attempt to keep the branch open they reach for an account that could save them. They try to close this big account, so in order to court that CEO, this guy Walter Davis, they throw a Christmas Party and invite him to it in a bid to impress him with the way they party, but they try a little bit too hard and things go wrong… it leaves the office after awhile, and we hit the streets of Chicago at night, and things escalate for sure.”
With Jennifer Aniston’s character, Carol, very much being the villain in this piece she admits she had to put a lot of thought into how Carol would relate to many of the other characters in the film. “With Carol and Clay, I had a pretty good idea of who I thought they would be. I thought they would be a grown up Jeanie and Ferris Bueller kind of relationship… that kind of relationship grown up and there’s still that resentment there, but now they are in the professional world but that kind of sibling rivalry still comes out in bad ways and unexpected moments and I thought that would be fun. And she’s not a terrible person she just hasn’t been given anything on an emotional level, so all that she has really trained inside herself is that ‘well I’m going to prove myself, I’m going to the best, and I’m going to be the strongest. So sadly she has never really developed that soft, fuzzy side. Carol is pretty much the Grinch that wants to steal Christmas away from all of these hard working employees who aren’t doing as good of a job as they should be doing and I know that and I’m actually right, but I just don’t go about it the right way and I’m also paying back a childhood vendetta that I have had.”
Like Bateman Aniston also admits that there is a big plus side to working with people that you know. “Will Speck and I and Josh have known each other since The Switch and we became such good friends, and then, of course, Jason and I are like family. There’s definitely a shorthand and a trust that we have with each other. It almost doesn’t feel like work. I joke that with Jason that this is our fifth film together… I think that it is the fifth… and that is really great. Again there becomes this trust with each other, and you know what you are in for and you know that you can go to a place and trust that your partner is going to believe in you, so you feel really lucky. I’m so lucky that they are still allowing this to happen to Hollywood.”
As cinema goers, we should also consider ourselves lucky that Hollywood allows Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston to keep working together as well because the result is a film that is as fun as Office Christmas Party.