Working Girl (1988)

Film review: Working Girl (1988), directed by Mike Nichols

One of the many classic movies to come out of the 1980s is Working Girl. It’s not just any romantic comedy, it accrued a number of awards and award nominations. Mike Nichols got OSCAR nominated for his direction, the main theme, Carly Simon’s Let The River Run won Best Music Original Song (previous year’s winner was (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing, as it happens). The leading lady got a nomination, as did two of the supporting ladies. And that’s just the OSCAR – other awards were available!

The story follows Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a lowly secretary in a big company. Just turned 30, she is ambitious, has worked hard for a degree and wants to get recognised and everyone thinks she’s a joke – including her boss, Oliver Platt (why does he tend to just play complete bastards?), who sets her up with a slimy Kevin Spacey (took me a while before I suddenly went, “hey, is that Kevin Spacey?!”), who really isn’t looking for an ambitious new assistant, but wouldn’t mind an ambitious woman in bed … And when Tess returns to the office, she gets in trouble for pulling a revenge stunt on the computer. The HR lady (Olympia Dukakis) says this is the last time she can help, as Tess has been in trouble twice before, and transfers her to another department.

As the secretary to even more ambitious business woman Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), Tess is much happier. Katharine is so supportive and values her as a team member and … when she goes on a skiing holiday in Europe, Tess finds out two things that will change her life: 1) her boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) isn’t Mr. Right, and 2) her new boss is trying to steal the brilliant idea she came up with. And, as they say, “when the cat’s gone” … Tess decides to pitch the idea herself – by pretending she’s in Katharine’s shoes, and not just some lowly secretary.

And it was done in the time before Griffiths discovered cosmetic surgery, so she’s very pretty – haircut aside. With the craziest gravity-defying haircuts ever to come out of the 1980s (not just from Griffith, her BFF Joan Cusack also has a scary ‘do!), big shoulder pads and glasses that put even Dennis Taylor to shame and a wonky-smiled, young-ish Harrison Ford, it’s a movie about sticking up for yourself. If you know you can do it, take a risk/chance and go for it.

The 1980s was a time of business deals, living the high life and everything was money, money, money. I’m glad to be born during the decade so I can’t actually remember any of it. Not the sort of lifestyle I would like to aspire to, and it’s sort of painful just to watch someone trying to survive in that world.

As a comedy, it’s decent, following in the footsteps of Nine to Five. As a romantic film, it’s not exactly romantic, but Ford’s character is very chivalrous when Tess gets paralytic on tequila. Good on him! Still, it’s not the sort of film where I’m left with a fuzzy feeling of love afterwards. It’s more of a “you GO, girl!” and “stick it to the boss!” feeling. Which is still good, I suppose, but I’m not blown away by it. Even if Sigourney Weaver is delightfully bitchy. But then again, I don’t really like backstabbers, so the “delightful” bit is more because Weaver gives a great performance rather than liking the character she portrays.

Good message, though – you can win if you want, anything is possible – so all in all, 3 out of 5 career women.

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