Working Girl (1988)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Working Girl</strong> (1988)

(On Cable TV, January 2019) Now there’s a strong contender for the title of the most 1980s movie ever. Working Girl came at a time when Hollywood seemingly couldn’t get enough of Manhattan’s Wall Street ambience, in between Wall Street and The Secret of my Success and Baby Boom and many others released in barely a three-year span. Unlike many of those, however, Work Girl clearly has (from its title onward) a clear idea that it wants to talk about class issues in the United States, especially when the Manhattan office environment can be used to put the very poor right alongside the very rich. Director Mike Nicholls approaches the topic with two ideal actresses at each pole of the story: Melanie Griffith as the heroic low-class girl whose smarts exceed those around her, and Sigourney Weaver as her high-class, low-morals opposite. The opponents having been defined, the rest is up for grabs: the job, the prestige, even the boy-toy (Harrison Ford, good but not ideal—the role is funnier than he is) will be given to the winner. Good performances abound, with some surprising names (Joan Cusack! Alec Baldwin? Oliver Platt!! Kevin Spacey as a lecherous pervert?!) along the way. Still, this is Griffith and Weaver’s show. Only one of them shows up in lingerie, though. Now, Working Girl is not a perfect film—it does use a few shortcuts on the way to a sappy romantic conclusion, and it bothered me more than it should that the characters would assign so much importance to the idea as having value—in the real world, execution is far more important, but it doesn’t dramatize so well. Still, that doesn’t take much away from Working Girl as class conflict playing out in late-1980s Manhattan. It’s not a complicated film, but it is very well crafted. (One more thing: Weaver’s character’s name had me thinking of evil Katharine Hepburn, which led me to think about how the two women looked like each other, which had me thinking about how they could have switched many roles, which had me thinking about Katharine Hepburn as Ripley in Aliens. Hollywood, if you’re listening, I know you have the CGI and lack of morals to make this happen.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *