- Movie Rating -

Swing Shift (1984)

| April 13, 1984

Swing Shift deals with a chapter of history that needs to be told and, thankfully, in the hands of director Jonathan Demme, it has been.  After Pearl Harbor, when the vast population of American men headed off to Europe and to the Pacific, the American workforce was depleted, so factory workers desperate to meet the military’s quota for artillery and rolling stock, turned to housewives and sweethearts to get the job done.  What is special about Swing Shift is that it doesn’t seem to lean on the national pull-together spirit of the job but instead focuses on several women who did the job because their country needed them but also formed a bond that would last a lifetime.  When the war ends in this movie, there’s a sense of sadness.

Goldie Hawn plays Kay who, like many women of the time lives with her husband Jack (Ed Harris) who doesn’t want her to work.  He’s a nice guy who treats her like a child and then heads off to join the Navy.  Once he’s gone, she takes a job at the factory, partially to have something to do.  It doesn’t take long, however, for one of the guys at the factory to start making his move.  He is Lucky, a handsome guy that becomes persistent until she gives in, after two years.  Of course, similar to her situation is her new friend at the factory, a married woman named Hazel who is having a happy romp with a guy named Biscuits (Fred Ward) who runs a nightclub.

I expected the complicated affairs but what I didn’t expect was that the real love story here was between Kay and Hazel.  They form a friendship that is special, real and made up of who they are not the requirements of the plot.  By the end, we have not come to be concerned about their affairs but saddened that the friendship between them won’t be the same now that their men are back home.

I think that a lesser movie would have focused the film on the sexist issues present in the factory, and yeah, it’s here but it is handled in a way that doesn’t mar the plot.  The center of the film is the friendship but the atmosphere of a time when women entered into a man’s world.  There is a sense that what they are doing is important to the greater good and that they are feeling a sense of themselves as people for the first time.  Demme does a good job of keeping the plot thin enough that it gets out of the way of the characters.  By doing this, Kay and Hazel are not the same people that they were at the beginning.  Four years pass and we can detect that changes that have taken place.  That’s special.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Drama