Saturday, January 14, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Working Girl (1988) ***

R, 113 min.
Director: Mike Nichols
Writer: Kevin Wade
Starring: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Philip Bosco, Nora Dunn

I know the hair was bad in the ‘80s, however, aren’t Melanie Griffith’s and Joan Cusack’s hair a little much in this movie. During the opening scenes of “Working Girl”, as the camera follows them on their commute to Manhattan from Staten Island, it’s hard not to chuckle at their plumes. However, I didn’t notice any of the background extras sporting anything like the coifs of these main players. Perhaps, the filmmakers insisted the extras tone down their normal do’s in order not to pull focus from Griffith and Cusack.

Despite its opening scenes, Mike Nichols’s “Working Girl” isn’t about hairstyle. It is, however, an important point in the women’s liberation movement in the workforce. “Working Girl” was one of the first workplace movies featuring women as the power players. Even Harrison Ford is subservient to the two leading ladies. Although, he is a power broker in their company, he plays second fiddle to their ideas. This was very important because, not only was Ford one hunk of a man for the ladies, he was also the biggest box office draw in Hollywood and would be for almost another ten years. His involvement gave the movie a good deal of attention its subject matter normally wouldn’t have.

Sigourney Weaver was also on a hot streak at the time, having become one of the first women with the ability to carry a movie without any big name male stars, the first to ever be nominated for an action lead in “Aliens” two years earlier. She would become a double nominee in 1989 for her work here and as Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist”. In this movie, she kind of resembles her “Aliens” nemesis.

I always felt that Griffith was the weak point in this movie. She’s too soft-spoken, too vulnerable. It’s good to see a portrayal of a powerful woman who isn’t a bitch, but I wanted her to speak up a little. Sure, she’s got a nice smile, but she doesn’t exude any real gumption, and that’s what this role needed. That gumption, I suppose, is why Weaver and Cusack still have strong film careers, and I haven’t seen Griffith in anything for quite some time.

Nevertheless, “Working Girl” is a good comedy, because it never pushes. It strives for a more realistic approach to its material, as opposed to the outrageous angle most 80s comedies took. The comedy is subtle and smart. It does go for the typical 80s happy ending. That fact and the hair are the two things that have diminished this movie a bit over time.

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