9 To 5 (1980)

All those numbers up above are making me dizzy. Moving on–Dolly Parton, what can I say about her that’s not insulting? I mean you don’t come to highteadreams for real reviews, do you? You can get those elsewhere. This website is for coach potatoes who should be doing something better with their lives, but aren’t. Back to DP: It costs her a lot of money to look that cheap…she is a bit of an old bike who gets around a bit with male celebrities…she’s the country gal always throwing her blanket on the ground when the men were around…she’s so irritatingly cheerful about her poverty-stricken roots…flying fanny…I’ll leave it at that. As for this flick, I suppose those crazed feminists like Gloria Steinem or Angela Merkel watch it on International Women’s Day (don’t laugh) or on other “worthy” occasions.

Although this film (or maybe just the title song) seemed ubiquitous in the early 80s, you don’t really hear people talk about it anymore and somehow I managed to never see it until now. I guess it’s a zeitgeist picture –a film about a social movement that might not seem as urgent today. In 1980 this was edgy, but today most of this material would be tame for TV. However, it still has some laughs… I enjoyed some of the dream sequences, especially Dolly Parton with the lasso capturing Dabney Coleman. I felt that Coleman and Parton were the most amusing to watch. Jane Fonda was trapped in a ridiculous character from the 1950s: a housewife stereotype brought into the modern era, and she never finds her footing or does anything interesting in the inevitable scene where she becomes a “modern” outspoken woman.

Lily Tomlin turns in some good acting (the scene where she half-heartedly resists her teenage son’s offer of a joint is typically solid), but her character didn’t really take off for me either. But at least she covered it up better. Parton’s having a good time and it’s infectious. Coleman was an under-rated character actor, and he has more to work with here than usual. He has several different layers of nastiness for us to discover, and at least one layer of sympathy. I think the project is good, but short of being really memorable or classic. I found the plot very thin generally, and once the office situation and the characters had been set up so well there was nowhere up for the story to go. The hospital sequence and the scenes in and outside of the car were tedious, and there are too many scenes of Coleman in his odd S&M getup.

  (9 to 5 Premiere in New York, December 14, 1980)

I would have liked to see the film become more episodic, instead of settling into that whole plot-angle about the rat poison. Also, I think the film’s formula is too rigid and it ends up restricting the characters. The zany scenes clash too much with the serious scenes and it makes the whole thing feel a bit haphazard, because it’s not directed with any vision that would have united them. With the story going so far and so long into the whole hostage situation, my sympathies weren’t sticking completely with “the girls.” The film tried too hard to make them heroic, despite all the bizarre stuff they were doing to Coleman’s character. A good example would be the confrontation between Fonda’s character and her ex-husband (Laurence Pressman). The way I saw it, he could easily have just been a sleaze bag.

He obviously was to some extent, because he ran off with the secretary and so on. But nothing he does or says in that particular scene is so outrageous, that we should really jump to Jane Fonda’s side and cheer when she tells him off, as we’re obviously supposed to do, en masse. Unlike in somewhat similar films about office and sexual politics such as, say, “Election” and “Office Space”, the protagonists are simply right in this film and whoever gets in their way is wrong. Don’t worry too much about the details, or expect any introspection along with the character development, because this movie ultimately is about female empowerment in the most generic sense of the term. I found it fun in a lightweight way, but it was too finger lickin’ comfortable with its own assumptions, and the farce was too broad, to completely please me.

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