Apr 29, 2015

Review: Working Girl (1988)

I felt bad for thinking that Working Girl was a movie about a prostitute. Even the way it began had me thinking that it was, but in truth it's actually a movie about a secretary trying to break into the financial industry. I'm convinced that Mike Nichols was trying to fool me into thinking it was about a prostitute. But anyway, I honestly like movies that are set in the corporate world and I wish there would be more of them. It's not a place that's necessarily all that interesting in real life, but through the magic of movies the business world is one of the most exciting places to work.

On the surface, Working Girl does seem quite good. Mike Nichols isn't always a guaranteed stamp of quality, but he's got some great movies to his name all the same. With Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver also on board, that's a lot of potential. Lots of Academy Award nominations went out to Working Girl too which is never usually a bad thing. Oh and the guy who later co-wrote Junior is the screenwriter as well. That's a good sign too right?


At a Glance

Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Produced by: Douglas Wick, Robert Greenhut, Laurence Mark
Written by: Kevin Wade
Music by: Rob Mounsey
Running time: 114 minutes
Production company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Fox Film, Cannon Film Distributors, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $28,600,000
Box office: $102,953,112 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Melanie Griffith, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Philip Bosco, Nora Dunn, Oliver Platt, James Lally, Kevin Spacey, Robert Easton, Olympia Dukakis, Amy Aquino, Jeffrey Nordling, Elizabeth Whitcraft



Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) has gotten her bachelor's degree in business from years at night school while working as a secretary. Despite her smarts, she has to still compete with all the men who have Ivy League degrees as well as superiors who don't take her very seriously. Things finally start looking up after getting transferred to Katharine Parker's (Sigourney Weaver) office since she seems willing to actually give Tess a chance to prove her worth.


For a movie made in 1988, it's amazing just how relevant Working Girl still is. While it's true that things have improved for women working in the business world as well as in society as a whole, there's a lot of improvement to be had still. Working Girl is far from the first movie to come out with an empowered-woman storyline, but it's one of the best to do it without blowing its trumpet too hard. I for one love Working Girl's balancing act that successfully introduces us to a positive female main character as well as a funny and rewarding storyline.

This is pretty much my first movie with Melanie Griffith and I really thought she was perfect for the main role. As a character, Tess is a great mix of shy unsureness and hardened motivation which Griffith gets down pat with her way soft way of speaking. Nothing seems to work for her though. However, it looks to be a victory for Tess once she gets transferred to Katharine Parker's office though since Parker seems willing to act as a mentor for her new underling. As Tess is forced to do more and more menial and insulting tasks, the two-way street that Parker continually emphasizes is clearly a mirage.

Looking at the storyline as a whole, Working Girl is just movie perfection. It's not a story that's going to change your life or compete with the all-time greats of cinema, but there's absolutely no shortage of satisfaction to be had from Kevin Wade's script. From beginning to end, I was delighted with the highs and the lows of this Nichols film. I was behind Tess every step of the way. Add in the healthy doses of comedy brought to you by Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver and there's really very little to complain about.

(Spoilers) The fact that Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) is Katharine Parker's boyfriend is perhaps a bit too much, but I suppose Wade really wanted to have that surprise later on in the film. It's just the kind of thing that's come to be expected almost. If they had just been long-time co-workers that would've worked fine too. Still, Nichols handles that aspect well. (End Spoilers) I'm an especially big fan of the climax and falling action in Working Girl. It's proof that romantic comedies and good writing go together like strawberries and cream. 

Everyone likes Harrison Ford and it shouldn't be any surprise that he's pure awesome in Working Girl. It takes a while before you're finally introduced to his character, but trust me when I say it's well worth the wait. He's got some scenes that he completely steals on his own, but for the most part he keeps things reigned in. Sigourney Weaver is the one you see having loads of fun with her role. If there's ever been a boss you wanted to spoil their coffee in some way, she's the one. Katharine Parker is just deliciously horrible, but not to the point of caricature which is nice.

At the end of the day, Working Girl has pretty much everything I could ever ask for in a romantic comedy. Yes it's got the right amount of romance and comedy, but it especially benefits from a strong main character who makes it so easy to empathize with. The female empowerment angle is very well handled and the direction from Mike Nichols is very strong as he translates Kevin Wade's script to the screen. In terms of a workplace romantic comedy, Working Girl is easily one of the best I've ever seen.



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