- Movie Rating -

Nine to Five (1980)

| December 19, 1980

I keep seeing the same reviews pop up for Nine to Five, calling it a dimwitted, derivative piece of fluff that more or less blows the chance to expose the problem of the glass ceiling. I’m not exactly sure why that seems to be the prevailing opinion but, for me, I haven’t seen a movie on this subject whether it is a comedy or not.

First of all, the movie is a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1930s, the kinds that Howard Hawks use to make.  They were very funny, the comedy was as broad it could be, and there was always a social message that was hiding in plain sight.  If couldn’t be any greater tribute to those great films, but with a modern twist that I found refreshing.

For one thing, there isn’t a man in the lead.  The leads are three women from different backgrounds who see the hypocrisy and the sexism in their corporate environment from three different places.  First is Violet (Lily Tomlin), a widow with four kids who has been with Consolidated for 12 years training managers and, in fact, working under a manager that she actually trained.  She’s hit the glass ceiling so often it’s a wonder that she doesn’t have a concussion.

Then there’s Judy (Jane Fonda) a new employee who newly divorced and entering into her first job.  The office if a wilderness of bewildering machines and office regulations that sometimes seem ready to swallow her up.  She sees the hypocrisy from an outsider’s point of view.

Then there’s Doralee (Dolly Parton), an open-faced country girl with a bubbly personality and a form that becomes a magnet for her boss’ sexual advances.  When she finally brings that hammer down on the boss for spreading untrue rumors about an affair, it’s one of the great girl power moments of all time.

They’re all confined, all pressed under the boot of this corporate structure and their struggle would be nothing without a great villain.  He is Franklin Hart Jr., played in a disturbingly effective performance by Dabney Coleman as a male chauvinist pig who stretches his position of power far beyond what is necessary or appropriate and Coleman plays him for all of the slimeball immorality that he can muster.  It’s a great performance.

What I love about the film is the very thing that other critics seem to hate.  As I say, this is the rare comedy with women in the lead and the movie delves into their fantasies about doing in the boss.  After one horrible day too many, the girls get together for some barbecue and wacky weed wherein they fantasize about what they would like to do to the boss.  The fantasies are really very funny, particularly Tomlin, who envisions putting Hart through a Disney=Death scenario.

Then of course, the girls’ fantasies seem to come true, leading to a third act that I found really refreshing.  I won’t give it away, but if every corporation could have this kind of progress, corporate America would have a morale that other countries would envy.

I’m vague about the jokes.  All I can say is that this is a high energy comedy that would have made Howard Hawks proud.  It is in the great tradition of screwball comedies and it succeeds beautifully.  I love this movie.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized