Film Review: 9 to 5
In 1980, Colin Higgins released 9 to 5, which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman, Marian Mercer, Higgins, Peggy Pope, and Elizabeth Wilson. Grossing $103.3 million, the film launched Parton’s mainstream popularity. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical, New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Female, and Best Original Song - Motion Picture, the Grammy Awards for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special and Song of the Year, and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, the film won the Grammy Awards for Best Country Song and Best Country Vocal Performance - Female and the People's Choice Award for Favorite Theme/Song from a Motion Picture.
After Judy Bernly’s husband leaves her for his secretary, she starts a job at Consolidated Companies and is befriended by office manager Violet Newstead who advises her on the best way to navigate through daily office life. However their boss, Franklin Hart, is vulgar and incompetent, spending most of his time hitting on his secretary, Doralee.
Though a funny and fun to watch film, 9 to 5 comes of incredibly dated, especially with its main theme revolving around women permanently entering the workplace in large numbers and fighting to be respected as equals. That's not the only example of what really makes this film such a throwback, though. There’s also the technology, such as a photocopier that takes up an entire room and is much more complicated than a photocopier that would be seen in a modern office setting. The usage of typewriters and dictation machines as personal computers hadn’t hit the mainstream workforce yet is another example. Yet, even with outdated technology and the aforementioned theme dating the film, the film is still incredibly likable.
What helps its likability is the characters, presenting an antagonist that is essentially a love-to-hate kind of guy. Hart is so over the top in his buffoonish incompetence and antagonism towards the characters that it’s painfully obvious that he got his job not on merit, but because he knew the right people. In fact, it’s made clear late in the film that the office actually not only survives but thrives without him and when he’s actually given a promotion on what is thought to be his merit, he’s visibly distressed because he knows he could never do it. Further, he’s so bad at his job that he won’t even listen to any of his employees when they have something to say, seen when he won’t listen to an explanation of how the girls accidentally put rat poison in his coffee rather than sugar substitute.
On the other hand, there’s the three women who, though having very distinct personalities, band together to make the office a better place for all the workers. In fact, said personalities come out after smoking pot and having crazy dreams about how they would get back at Hart for everything he’s done. Their creativity all come out even more after removing Hart from the officer in their attempts to make it great in his absence and since Doralee can forge his signature better than he can write it, they not only go through, but make him look good.
Seeing the changes they make is also quite entertaining since those also contribute to the dating of the film as decorating cubicles and making dress codes less formal have mostly become commonplace.
In general though, there are a lot of good comedic moments laden throughout the film. One of the best would have to be the mix-up at the hospital when they think that Hart is dead. Though the bit has been done countless times before, it’s the ladies’ reactions, panicking and Newstead’s reaction to being confronted by a new nurse who doesn’t know where the cafeteria is. Another great comedic moment is when Bernly’s ex-husband comes back and finds Hart attached to a garage door opener, only to assume that she’s having a fling with the boss and gotten into bondage.
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