Nine to Five (1980)
Directed by Colin Higgins
Jane Fonda as Judy Bernly
Lily Tomlin as Violet Newstead
Dolly Parton as Doralee Rhodes
Dabney Coleman as Franklin M. Hart Jr.
In an attempt to complete my classic comedy movie knowledge, I’ve been revisiting recently a lot of movies that were on TV more in the 90s that came out in the 80s. A lot of these are movies that I’ve seen before, but primarily with commercial breaks and heavy editing. This led me to Nine to Five, a classic in every sense of the word.
Jane Fonda place a new employee a generic company being trained by Lily Tomlin. Both work under a horrible boss played by Dabney Coleman whose secretary is Dolly Parton. Swept up in office politics, what today seems like severe misogyny, and gossip, Violet (played by Lily Tomlin) has her ideas stolen by her boss, Jane Fonda is threatened repeatedly, and Dolly Parton is objectified, propositioned, and has a rumor about her that she is sleeping with the boss. After particularly stressful day, the three go out for a drink to unwind and ultimately, in a classic segment, fantasize about killing their boss. When the boss gets wounded in a funny way, the three think they somehow participated, the boss seeks retribution and gets tied up in his home.
In some ways classic comedies are hard to review, this one holds up on humor, that the pacing doesn’t quite match up with modern comedy, however the bigger detriment is the percentage of the movie that has been ripped off by other later comedies. This movie is paced briskly and is extremely entertaining, it is occasionally tongue-in-cheek and all the performances are solid. It also shows a time in work history wherein women were objectified in a different way. It’s funny to watch this movie and realize that while things aren’t necessarily good/equal for women employees, it’s amazing how different they once were. It’s also amazing to look at the line that had to be crossed in order for the women to react. Not because the line didn’t that was crossed didn’t deserve reaction, it’s that I imagine it would not have taken nearly as much for reaction today.
As far as the comedy goes, this movie is really impressive. Generally there aren’t that many movies where in women are the comedic leads, even today this is why movies like Spy get such press (which is not to say Spy doesn’t deserve the press for the comedy that is). However, the fantasy sequence, not unlike a Family Guy cutaway joke, lands extremely well. The movie additionally takes on different qualities as the movie progresses, from a workplace comedy, to a slapstick comedy, two fantasy parity comedy, ultimately back to a gender-based office comedy. All in all this movie could be recommended by me highly enough, aside from my love for all three of the female leads as actresses, I think Dabney Coleman does an excellent job being the boss.