What I'm Watching: Working Girl

Released: 1988             
Starring: Melanie Griffiths, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford, Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin
My Rating: ***

As someone who has seen their fair share of chick flicks and really enjoyed the majority, if I come across one that I haven't seen, it automatically goes down on my 'to watch' list. Working Girl is a classic eighties film starring Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill, a girl (well, she's thirty, so I think we should class her as a woman) who for years has been trying to get ahead at work with little success. 'Moved on' from her job for insulting her sleazy boss, she's made assistant to successful career woman Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) where she believes that things are starting to look up. But Katharine isn't as nice as she seems...

Working Girl was an easy watch and a fun film, but there were definitely a few things that grated on me. Still, lets talk about the good things first. Back in the eighties, work-place equality was in a much worse state than it is nowadays (although obviously we've still got a way to go) and Working Girl gives us a smart, business-minded heroine in Tess, who triumphs over adversity and manages to get ahead in a man's world (sorry, spoiler - but did you think this kind of film would have an unhappy ending?) In real life I doubt anyone would take her seriously, even today. She's so softly spoken, and girly and just... blonde. But that proves that the film's message is still relevant - you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover.

Talking about Tess's hair, the eighties fashions are another reason this film is a must-watch. The hair is so big and the shoulder-pads are so big and the earrings are so big - you get the picture. Sometimes older films date very quickly, and this definitely has dated - but in an 'oh my god look at those terrible clothes and giant grey computers' way, not a 'this is so boring and brown' way.

Character-wise, Tess was a likeable leading lady, Sigourney Weaver made a good villain, Alec Balwin did a decent job as Tess's boyfriend - and I'll come back to Harrison Ford later. The very best thing about this film however, is Joan Cusack (AKA the head-teacher from School of Rock) in the 'best friend' role. I was laughing out loud every time she was on screen - especially the scene where she pretends to be Tess's secretary.

So, the bad bits. The biggest disappointment I had when watching Working Girl was Harrison Ford. Bear with me here. I'm as big a Harrison Ford fan as the next person who's ever watched Indianna Jones or Star Wars but here he was just a bit...sleazy? Maybe it was the hair, or the mannerisms, or just the character. Ford plays Jack Trainer, a businessman who Tess wants to get on side with her big idea. Considering that he's the love interest, and the whole point of the film is that Tess is never taken seriously, I never got the impression that Jack liked her for her brains. Also, the big revelation towards the end made me think that she seriously deserves better. Jack never did anything (as far as I could see) that revealed him to be especially kind, or funny, or interesting. The only thing he had going for him was money and status and...well, he's Harrison Ford.

(mild SPOILERS ahead)

The ending in general was also a problem for me. Despite the film's supposedly feminist message, it degenerates very quickly into Tess vs Katharine, rather than Tess vs the patriarchy. Personally, I found the last scene outside Katharine's office really uncomfortable - and I don't want to be feeling that sorry for the villain at the end. I don't mind Tess getting her revenge, but I didn't like that the revenge was in the presence of Jack and all the suits. Katharine might have been a bitch, but that ending was about as far from girl power as you could get. Oh, and "boney-ass"? I usually think of 'skinny -shaming' just as a term magazines use to prevent people criticising their use of unhealthily thin models, but if there was ever a case for it's use, it's here.

Aside from the love interest and the ending, the only problem was the total cheese that was the dialogue. Examples: "I've got a head for business and a bod for sin. Is there anything wrong with that?" or my personal favourite - "I am not steak. You can't just order me!"

Anyway, despite all this, I did like the film. It was good fun, if not exactly a classic. And it did try to be feminist, even if it failed miserably. It's funny and the story sucks you right in, so I definitely wouldn't rule it out. And if nothing else, the cast's great.


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