Corner Office/The Room Book vs Movie-ending explained Review

written by Laura J.

The Room by Jonas Karlsson (2014)

Corner Office directed by Joachim Back (2023)

The story follows a man who is starting a new job with hopes to succeed. He gets off to a bad start when his co-workers are bothered by his use of a room he goes to for solace.

Book review

I really enjoyed this book! The main character (his name of Bjorn in the book because this is a Swedish book) is very eccentric and seems to have some kind of personality disorder or some kind of neurological disorder. This book almost feels like the story of a man who is losing his grip on reality, but it can also be seen as a look at office culture and being in the workplace rat race. As well as a social commentary on what we deem inappropriate depending on who the person is.

I loved the vibe of the book, which is unsettling, peculiar, and awkward at times. It is also a dark comedy and I thought it stuck a good balance between the humor and the sadness of the story at times.

Movie review

I thought the movie captured the ton of the book very well and we get some great performances. It is also a very faithful adaptation. There is a lot of voiceover, and while I think it was good to have VO, it kind of over does it. I felt like Jon Hamm was reading the book while we saw it performed.

Overall, I would highly recommend this movie! Its early reviews have been very low, which is unfortunate because that may deter others from checking it out! It is currently available to stream and you should ignore any negative reviewers and watch it!

From here on out I will be getting into the details of the plot, which means there will be spoilers!

Orson at work

Both book and movie start with Orson (I will be calling characters by the names they have in the movie) beginning a new job. What we don’t see in the movie, it why he left his previous job. In the book we learn that Orson’s old boss basically told him that he could excel somewhere else and they toasted a nonalcoholic beverage to Orson leaving and finding something better. But the reader can tell that people didn’t like Orson, and rather than straight up firing him, the old boss was clever and instead convinced Orson to quit and acted like he was doing Orson a favor.

Orson says in book and movie that he is someone who people can see knows how to do things right and thinks about how he is the smartest in the office.

When his boss at his new job, Andrew, tells him to wear booties on his shoes to keep the carpet clean, Orson is very put off and embarrassed. It really isn’t a big deal, but because Orson feels he is always right, to be put on the spot like that makes him feel stupid and he is very upset by it. In the book he is also sexist, and while he has a hard time talking to women and relating to them, he also has a hard time talking to the men in the office.

He thinks he knows how to do everything the best way, and once he is comfortable enough, will correct the way others do things.

The book and movie show how Orson perceives things, versus what is actually going on. In the movie this is where a lot of voiceover is used, but there were plenty of times it was clear what he was thinking even without the VO.

The room

Orson first discovers the room which is between the elevator and bathroom on accident. Then later, goes there on purpose to find some paper. The room is a stark contrast to the office, and Orson admires how everything is exactly in its place, everything is in order. He even notices how good he looks in the mirror in the room. He feels more confident and at peace while he is in there.

He starts to go in there at different times throughout the day just as a way to relax. One day he has his coworker come with him because the co-worker, Rakesh, keeps letting his papers spill over onto Orson’s desk and it makes Orson on edge at the thought of Rakesh’s paper’s taking over his desk. He talks to Rakesh about this in the room, and afterwards Rakesh keeps looking at Orson strangely and doesn’t do anything about his desk.

His co-workers

Rakesh eventually asks Orson what he does when he is standing in the hall. Orson is very confused, but apparently when Orson thinks he is in the room, the others just see him standing, in a trance, in the hall where Orson says the room is. He tells the others about the room but they all say it is just a wall and there is not room. When he takes them in there, they say he is just standing there doing and saying nothing even though he thinks he is talking to them in the room.

Eventually they go to the boss and the boss says he will continue working there as long as he agrees to no longer go in the room. Orson thinks his fellow employees are picking on him and this is some elaborate set-up to bully the new guy by pretending the room doesn’t exist. This whole thing, as well as Orson just being a difficult person to talk to, causes his work environment to be very unwelcoming.

Since him going in the room looks like him just standing there, there is a moment he is just standing outside the room but to and outsider it looks like he is back at it. He assures his boss he was just standing outside of the door though and didn’t actually go in.

The papers

The day eventually arrives when Rakesh’s files get onto Orson’s desk. Orson decides to take one of the files and later that evening goes into the room when everyone has left and works on it. He drops it off anonymsly at Andrew’s office and Andrew is very impressed. Rakesh admits it wasn’t him, and Andrew can’t figure out who is actually was.

Orson takes a few more files and works on them in the room and Andrew continues to be impressed. One day, one of the coworkers sees him drop the file in Andrew’s office and tells Andrew.

Andrew treats Orson differently because he is so impressed with his work. Everyone else in turn also starts to be nicer to Orson but Orson is still weird with them.

After a little while, he tells Andrew he wants access to the room again because he is tired of having to wait after hours to go in there and use it. In the book, Andrew and the others debate on if it is okay for him to use it since he is doing such great work. In the movie, they are not okay with it and there is no debating regardless of the work he is doing.

The ending

Ultimately in both, they decide to ask the VP and see what he decides. The VP, who we never see, says the room does not exist and that Orson can’t use it and is even asked to leave. He runs from security to the room where he is safe from them despite their knocking. However, we see that he is just standing in the hall, not mentally there as security and his coworkers gather around him trying to get his attention. But the book and movie end with us seeing Orson in the room, feeling at ease.

The receptionist

In both, Orson finds the building receptionist likeable. In the book, he talks to her at their Christmas party which happens early on in the book. They talk for a bit, then he grabs her hand and takes her to the room. He says they are in there for like an hour, but he is not entirely sure what happened in there. He says they kissed, but it didn’t feel like he was kissing her. When the leave the room, she looks at him strangely before leaving and going straight home.

The next day he arrives to work early and sees her but she seems put off by him. As he hangs out in the lobby, he approaches her again and she asks him in a polite way if he is on drugs. He is very surprised by this question and assumes she is asking him this because she in fact is a druggie. But he realizes that it is not like 10:30 and somehow hours had passed without him realizing it and he goes back upstairs.

In the movie, the Christmas party happens much closer to the end. Prior to the party, he talks to the receptionist and tells her the secret to his impressive work is the secret room he goes to. At the party she goes up to them and she asks him about the room. He takes her and she says she doesn’t see it, but she wants to. He puts her hand on where the doorknob is and tells her to open it. They both go inside and she tells him how great he is and they have this bonding moment where he feels seen by her. They then have this surrealist dance sequence which I really liked. It was also kind of giving me I’m Thinking of Ending Things vibes. But after this, he closes the door and as in the book, she looks at him strange and then leaves. The same thing happens the next day with her being distant and asking him if he is taking drugs.

The receptionist is played by Sarah Gadon who I talked about for the movie Enemy, and she was also in 11/22/63. This poor lady can’t find a normal guy! She keeps falling for men that have issues in one way or another lol.

My interpretation

I don’t quite realize the point of the lobby scene in book and movie. I don’t know why time passes without his realizing it and am not sure what to make of that. If you have any ideas, please share in the comments!

The overall message though seems to be able how the corporate world will wear you down. There is a funny part at the start of the movie when he says that going to the office for the first time, he felt like it was a place he could blossom. But the office looks so dreary and miserable and not a place anyone could truly blossom in. It also shows how people are against individuality because when Orson does something unusual, even though he isn’t borthering anyone, they are all up in arms about it. Granted, he does start bringing people with him “into the room” which is when Rakesh starts to be more bothered.

The book was interesting though because when he starts doing great work, they debate on if it is okay that he use the room again. Showing that if you are successful enough, people will put up with more and justify what you do. Having said that, in both they would rather be rid of him than keep him on even though he is doing more than anyone else.

The movie ends with Orson yelling at the others about how the big wigs don’t care about them and are just using them. “They don’t care about you. They don’t. You’re a number in a column on a spreadsheet. This is a corral and you’re all livestock. But instead of slaughtering you, they just show you the efficiency metrics and then encourage you to slit your own throat. And you? If you think that you’re going to get the same kind of work that you got out of me out of these people that can’t even see a door right in front of their face then you’ve got another thing coming.” He may have been different, and seemingly crazy, but at the end he is more self-aware then the others.

The book doesn’t have him saying any of this, but it still has the same message just in different words.

The fact that he becomes more aware and isn’t wanting to be the mindless cattle he sees his coworkers as being, makes him turn to his fantasy world all the more and chooses that over reality. I initially thought of the book as being someone who is losing touch with reality, and while that is true, the movie made me reconsider. As said, maybe he sees reality too clearly, and that is why he can’t bear it and needs his escape.

I also see it as being reflective of mental illness of some kind, because it seems that even prior to finding the room he had these weird personality traits that made him think he is superior to others and misinterprets social cues and thinks everything is about him basically.

Final thoughts

There is a woman who has a children’s daring of a sunset that has land of either sides of the sun which really bothers Orson since it is inaccurate. He feels it is wrong of her to subject everyone to this bad drawing. This was kind of funny I thought, but now I feel like maybe there was a bigger meaning to it? Because in the end he storms off and tells her it isn’t accurate.

In both, his boss gifts him loafers to wear in the office. So that the floors can stay clean but he doesn’t have to wear the disposable booties. In the book, he got these early on after the initial drama of them thinking something is wrong with him and the coworkers are annoyed that just because he is crazy he gets free shoes. In the movie, he gets these in the end when he is showing his worth at the company.

In the book he also takes down the Christmas decorations and messes up the walls in some spots but this isn’t in the movie.

Book vs movie

This is a tough one because I really like both so much! The movie is a great adaptation, my biggest complaint being the constant voiceover. The book isn’t perfect, but it is one I would highly recommend. I think I will say the movie wins though because it so faithfully tells the story while providing great visuals and wonderful performances. Even though they are both so similar, I think if you liked the movie you should still check out the book.