(On Cable TV, February 2017) I recall seeing Nine to Five as a kid, but given that I only remembered the iconic theme song, I will pretend that this was like watching a new film. It certainly feels like a time capsule from the late seventies, with its broad statements about feminism, contemporary fashions and work culture at a pre-computer, barely-photocopier era. Jane Fonda is a bit dull as the intentionally blank heroine, but Lily Tomlin is very good as a cynical office manager, and it’s a treat to see Dolly Parton in her prime as a smarter-than-she-looks secretary. Their story of female empowerment and revenge against a no-good boss (sorry, “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”) is good for a few chuckles, especially when the film goes off the reality rails and features three outlandish dream sequences. As for the rest, the film has aged depressingly well: it’s discouraging to realize that much of the feminist content remains effective thirty-five-years later—there’s been progress, but not that much of it, especially in the United States. The theme song hasn’t gone out of style either: “Working nine-to-five/What a way to make a living…”
(On Cable TV, December 2013) While it’s refreshing to see a comedy avoid the usual formula for the genre, Admission risks audience sympathies by doing its own off-beat thing. The unusual choices made by the script and director Paul Weitz (who’s done quite a bit better in the past) may be explained by it being an adaptation of a novel, but once it becomes clear that Admission is not going to play by the usual rules of film comedy, much of the film becomes predictable and so is the resignation that it will withhold a complete release. Still, there is a lot to like here: the look at competitive college admission procedures may feel odd to this Canadian viewer, but it’s interesting, and the quasi-satiric look at academia is good for a few laughs. As leads, Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are at their usual most charming selves, with a remarkable supporting turn by Lily Tomlin. It’s amiable enough, and the film does try hard to be something more than a generic romantic comedy. Still, there’s a sense of missed opportunities, of watered-down comedy and intentional misdirection here that makes it hard to wholeheartedly endorse. Admission will certainly do as a good-enough film, but there are certainly funnier, more heartfelt choices out there.