Monday, May 11, 2015

Hard Working Girl Heroes

A few weeks ago, after getting home from seeing Age of Ultron in the cinema, Nine to Five was on telly. It started pretty late, and wasn't going to be over until two in the morning, so I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the end. I'd seen it before, years and years ago when I was fairly young so the jokes went clear over my head and my favourite part was Lily Tomlin's revenge fantasy sequence, because cartoon woodland creatures.


But stay up until two I did, because Nine to Five is a goddamn feminist fairytale DELIGHT, and after watching a film earlier that evening where two capable and fascinating lady superheroes cracked plenty of robot skulls, but hardly said a single word to each other, a film with three female leads somehow felt newer and more relevant, despite the fact that it's 35 years old. (And not 25 like I originally calculated, until the Bear pointed out that the 90s were not in fact ten years ago.)

Starring Lily Tomlin as Violet, a super efficient office supervisor who's been repeatedly passed over for promotion because she's a woman, Jane Fonda as Judy, a naive former housewife, freshly divorced and entering the workforce for the first time, and Dolly Parton as Doralee, the cute-as-a-goddamn-button secretary to their obnoxious sleazeball boss, Nine to Five doesn't just pass the Bechdel Test, it invites it over for gin and popcorn and Death Becomes Her on DVR so you can fast-forward through the ad breaks.

After being mistreated one too many times by the aforementioned boss, the three women bond in a nearby bar, get stoned, and fantasize about exacting revenge on the "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" that is Mr. Hart. The fantasy revenge scenes are a super fun and surreal deviation, featuring Judy dressed like a lady Indiana Jones big game hunter, chasing a terrified Mr. Hart through the office, Doralee as a gleeful horndog cowgirl, turning the tables on the sexual harassment Hart has made her endure, and Violet as a murderous Snow White, lacing her odious boss's coffee with rat poison.


Following a series of screwball mix-ups and mishaps, they end up kidnapping Mr. Hart, trussing him up in an S&M style harness attached to the ceiling in his fancy house (but not before Dolly hog-ties him in the office with a phone cord, like a boss). There's even a delightfully jaunty montage of some very practical shopping for holding a man hostage. They're actually very accommodating, making sure he has cigars and magazines and everything. However, the intrepid trio also have an enemy in Roz, who works as Hart's executive assistant and informant, ratting out other women at every opportunity because Roz is a LAPDOG OF THE PATRIARCHY.

While Violet, Judy and Doralee hatch a plan to blackmail their boss, they kill time by making the office a 100% better place to work in and get a heap of feminism all up in it, introducing day care, diversity, flexible working hours and a coat of cheerful paint on the lockers. The workplace they've created is better than most workplaces right now. Their office initiatives even sort out their co-worker Margaret's alcoholism. By the time the chairman of the board arrives on the scene (dressed as Colonel Sanders for some reason) the office looks like 1980s Google.

As an aside, this was Dolly Parton's first film role, which is outrageous, because she's like a lightbulb in every scene and almost indecently adorable. Also, 1980 was approaching a pretty dicey time in fashion and yet Dolly manages to look unfailingly wonderful in everything she wears. How bloody rude.


It's by no means perfect, but honestly, watching it now, Nine to Five felt current and refreshing. It's not like we're inundated with feminist films these days and considering that women comprised just 12% of the protagonists in the top-grossing films in 2014, we need more fucking films like it. We're at a point where almost any new female-led comedy is billed as "Bridesmaids meets [insert random title here]!!", even if the only thing it's got in common with Bridesmaids is more than one female character who's not just Buzzkill Girlfriend or Nagging Wife. We're so starved of blockbuster-sized, hilarious, well-written, female-driven comedy that we have to keep referring back to one single film from four years ago. (And I'm really just talking about films here, as Broad City, Amy Schumer, Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler have been doing sterling work on this front in TV.)

Pitch Perfect was bizarrely described on its posters as "Bridesmaids meets Ted!", despite the fact that it featured neither a wedding, nor an asshole teddy bear. The Duff was billed as "Bridesmaids meets Mean Girls!", Brit comedy The Knot was "Bridesmaids meets The Hangover!" and a Jennifer Lopez film called MILF is in production and being touted as "Bridesmaids meets First Wives Club!" It's an epidemic. A movie could be about nurses in World War Two, working in the field and if it wasn't 100% deathly serious it'd be billed as "Bridesmaids meets Saving Private Ryan!"

In any case, I highly recommend a viewing of Nine to Five. It's got feminsim, zingy one-liners, Lily Tomlin being fantastically acerbic and possibly one of the greatest theme songs ever written for a film. Also, fun fact, the typewriter noise in the song was made by Dolly clacking her acrylic nails off each other, because DOLLY IS PERFECTION.


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8 comments :

  1. I love Dolly! And now I have to watch this film tonight - the trials of life....

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    1. Hooray! You're going to have SUCH a lovely evening!

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  2. I watched it on TV that night also, and it was such a treat! Lily Tomlin can do no wrong - you should definitely pitch a star vehicle for her. "Bridesmaids meets Saving Private Ryan!" would be perfect for Lily

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    1. I was joking when I said it, but I would totally watch Bridesmaids meets Saving Private Ryan!

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  3. Oh my giddy aunt, the Bridesmaids thing. It's like every new book release featuring any kind of human interaction being billed as "perfect for fans of Gone Girl!". Does my nut in! I love Dolly. I read her autobiography a few months ago and she is a hoot, I want her to adopt me. Haven't seen this movie in years, will definitely track it down again!

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  4. The nineties will forever be ten years ago to me!

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  5. I used to love this movie. So friggen funny. I don't know how I found your blog, but I really love it! Happy to be a new follower! :)

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  6. "Nine to Five doesn't just pass the Bechdel Test, it invites it over for gin and popcorn and Death Becomes Her on DVR so you can fast-forward through the ad breaks" I saw this film for the first time today and this explains it perfectly <3
    Also, lol, why *is* the big boss Colonel Sanders? And why does he have an office in Brazil? I feel there's a whole other story here ; )

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