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January 28, 2017

Movie Review: 9 to 5 (1980)

Directed by Colin Higgins

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

The 1980s comedy classic 9 to 5 comes to Blu-Ray courtesy the fine folks from Twilight Time! At 37 years old, a lot of the subject matter here, such as blatant discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, seems unconscionable at this point in American history, but one must sadly admit was this was how it was in the workplace on the eve of the Reagan Administration.

To recap: freshly divorced housewife Judy (Jane Fonda) ventures back into the workplace at a large corporation, She is taken under the wing of worldly wise widow Violet (Lily Tomlin), the “gal Friday” of the repulsive Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman in the role that only could be played by Dabney Coleman) who routinely steals all her ideas and passes her over for promotion. Sassy country gal Doralee (Dolly Parton), unfairly singled out as the office “desk polisher” by her coworkers, strikes up a friendship between Violet and Judy, and over drinks, dope and barbecue share their fantasies of murdering Mr. Hart. An unfortunate series of events the following day actually lead the trio do believe they DID murder Mr. Hart. When he reappears and threatens blackmail against them, the women abduct him and begin to put their own version of “employee relations” into practice.

While a huge success and highly popular, 9 to 5 did catch flak from some quarters as being “anti-male” and simplistic in its approach to employee relations. It must be noted that while seriously wronged, the trio of female office drones resort to some mighty fascistic things to take down their fascist boss. It’s somewhat unnerving to learn that Doralee (effortlessly played with virtuoso effort by Parton in her first movie role) for all of her sweetness carries a gun in her purse. The female leads in real life would all go to prison for a very, very long time for the deeds done on display here. Most audiences will brush away this fact by the fact that the film’s intention is as an escapist fantasy that while packing an agenda, lives only to entertain. 

Watching the film today, it’s hard to believe that women endured such terrible working conditions in the white-collar workplace. While women continue to make less than men – and there is still a very, very long way to go in equality for the sexes. There are protections and laws in place to make sure that villainous Mr. Hart wouldn’t get very far today, but as Julie Kirgo points out in her liner notes, the conflict seen in the film is alarmingly prescient of the Trump Administration.

This Blu-Ray is just chock full o’ extras. There is an isolated score track, an audio commentary track with actresses Fonda, Parton and Tomlin; an additional commentary track with screenwriter Patricia Resnick and film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman; the mini-documentary, “Nine @ 25,” which revisited the film with all major participants on the eve of the film’s 25th anniversary in 2005; the mini-documentary, “Remembering Colin Higgins,” the talented writer-and director behind such other film classics as Harold and Maude (1971) and Foul Play (1978). While everyone has very fond memories of this scrappy auteur, none point out the fact that Higgins died from AIDS-related complications in 1988 at the far too young age of 47. There is also a karaoke sing-along video for the film’s title theme, “9 to 5” written and sang Parton who rocketed the single to #1 status. There are some rough interviews with both Parton and Tomlin, one-shot talking head shots with below par audio, who reiterate the film’s main points in the other included interviews.

On top of that, there are deleted scenes, a gag reel and the film’s original theatrical trailer. Of special interest is an animation reel, which goes into length about Lily Tomlin’s revenge sequence. Attired in Snow White attire, Tomlin plots the poisoning of Coleman with the aid of several semi-Disney animated creatures in a scene that plays up on the inherent sinister element in fairy tales. 

If you’ve never seen 9 to 5, do so! The film resonates deeply with anyone, who, to quote a pop song of yore, “I’m takin’ what they’re givin’ ‘cause I’m workin’ for a livin’.”

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