I didn’t watch Working Girl until I was in my early 20’s. It is one of those films that is shown late at night a couple of times a year, so one evening, I was bored and decided to give it a chance. I’m glad I did because I love it.
Directed by Mike Nichols and released in 1988, I don’t think things have changed all that dramatically for women in the workplace since then. This film will resonate for many women in business and secretaries/PA’s who were better than their job.
Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is a secretary from Staten Island who wants more out of life and wants to be taken seriously by her idiot male colleagues. She has a degree in business, which she achieved through attending night school. Her boyfriend, Mick (Alec Baldwin), doesn’t understand why Tess wants more out of life and wants her to settle down with him.
Tess keeps being promised an executive position, but it never happens. After getting her own back on her colleagues for another stupid prank they’ve played on her (involving the amazing Kevin Spacey as a slimeball), Tess is moved to another department to work for a new female executive, Katherine Parker, played to bitchy perfection by the wonderful Sigourney Weaver. At first, Tess is encouraged by working for a female boss, but it turns out Katherine is no better than her old colleagues. She just patronises Tess in a passive aggressive manner.
Disheartened, one morning on the Staten Island ferry, Tess has a brainwave for an important client, Trask, to make an investment in radio, but knowing nobody will take her seriously, she takes matters in her own hands. Whilst Katherine is out of the country because of a skiing accident, Tess wangles her way into an important party, by using Katherine’s name, so she can meet executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford at his most charming).
Jack Trainer: “You’re the first woman I’ve seen at one of these things that dresses like a woman, not like a woman thinks a man would dress if he was a woman.”
Jack likes Tess’s pitch and says he will back her. Whilst they work on their pitch to Trask, Tess and Jack fall for each other, but Jack just happens to be Katherine’s boyfriend and Katherine returns from Europe…..
Without spoiling any more of the plot, I hope I have told you enough to make you want to watch the film. I haven’t seen Melanie Griffith in anything else, but she is fantastic in this. She portrays Tess as sharp, witty, likeable and just the right side of cute. The supporting cast are great, including Joan Cusack as Tess’s best friend, Cynthia, who has the brilliant line to Jack “can I get you anything? coffee, tea, me?” and Philip Bosco as Mr Trask. The ending of the movie leaves you grinning and I love the song “Let the River Run”, which won Carly Simon an Oscar. Just watching this film for the 80’s hair and fashion is a must. Enjoy!
Tess McGill: “You bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And, if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.”