Working Girl - 1988
Mike Nichols’ Working Girl, shows the harsh reality of a woman trying to make it in a male dominated industry (Wall Street). Tess, played by Melanie Griffin, is a working-class secretary aspiring to reach an executive position. After failing to keep her first tree jobs (not due to her work-ethic), she lands her last shot at working under Katherine, played by Sigourney Weaver. She immediately sees her as role-model, until Katherine tries to steal one of her ideas.
This movie’s first half is so hard to watch (for a good reason) as it shines a harsh light into sexism. We get almost a montage of men harassing Tess and the women around her, to the point that I looked at my wife and just stared at her with my eyes wide open. The worst coming from her bosses as she is set up in a business meeting and date with young coked-out of his mind Kevin Spacey. The sexism is not only reflected in her work-life, since after a long day at work she finds her boyfriend, played by Alec Baldwin, having sex with another woman and later proposes marriage to her as if the infidelity never happened. This movie is relentless in showing its audience how hard it can be to be taken seriously at work when you aren’t a man.
Tess is shown to handle the sexism around her with anger and lashing out at men trying to humiliate them, losing her jobs in the process. In complete contrast, Katherine is shown to manipulate the man around her, using their egos to possibly gain an advantage in the future. The movie never preaches toward its audience on how to correctly handle being discriminated against it just showcases two different approaches and lets the audience decide.
This movie benefits from a great cast and Academy Award nominated performances. Melanie Griffin is the clear stand-out among the entire cast, delivering an incredible arch for her character. We see Tess grow from a low-speaking secretary to a firm leader among her peers, as she gains more business experience throughout the movie. Watching her performance, I saw a lot of similarities in her voice and expressions to Marilyn Monroe back in the day. While her performance was great and helped move the plot forward, I don’t think it would receive an Academy Award nomination today.
Melanie Griffin’s love interest is played by Harrison Ford in one of his funniest performances. Yeah, Ford, along with Joan Cusack, can be considered the comedic relief of this movie. To think that Ford’s previous films were two Star Wars (Empire and Jedi), two Indiana Jones (Raiders and Temple), Blade Runner, The Witness and then he made Working Girl as the comedic relief is truly remarkable. Ford is able to switch from your stereotype romantic lead to comedic relief with ease and it points to the trust he had in Nichols direction and vision in this movie.
Working Girl also has a tight script, utilizing every single scene to push the plot forward. Kevin Wade took audience on a journey where we never question why we are being given this information. When you deconstructed the script, you can see a simple math equation in were and action equals a reaction from the character that move the plot towards the end goal.
Mike Nichols, director of other classics like The Graduate, showed his mastery of all the elements needed in a movie. The used of the song “Let the river run” at the beginning of the movie completely set the tone, using it at the end too bookmark the movie and too remind the audience how it started was a great touch. He also got, what I considered, the best performance out of Griffin allowing her to shine among bigger name stars and letting her carry the movie.
Working Girl… works (sorry) on so many levels. It provides a great social commentary, that sadly is very relevant today, while still being a great romantic comedy. This movie holds up to this day and is still incredibly funny and a testament to Nichols directorial touch. I was somewhat shocked on how raw and direct sexism was showcased in this movie (specially for its time). This movie forced me to put myself in my wife’s shoes as she tries to navigate in corporate America and this is why I love movies.
Working Girl is currently streaming on Netflix, catch it if you can.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) so you can be up to date with all my reviews.