Working Girl (1988)
July 8, 2022 7:29 AM - Subscribe

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is an ambitious secretary with a unique approach for climbing the ladder to success. When her classy, but villainous boss (Sigourney Weaver) breaks a leg skiing, Tess takes over her office, her apartment and even her wardrobe. She creates a deal with a handsome investment banker (Harrison Ford) that will either take her to the top, or finish her off for good.

Directed by Mike Nichols.

Rated 84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Hulu and available for digital rental on various outlets.
posted by DirtyOldTown (24 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's ironic that Melanie Griffith's specialty was playing women that society underestimates and takes for granted and that she was so good at it, we tend to underestimate her and take her for granted.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 AM on July 8, 2022 [14 favorites]

Cynthia is my favorite: accent, sass, hair, clothes. Joan Cusack for the win!

"Sometimes, I dance around my apartment in my underwear... doesn't make me Madonna, never will."
posted by narancia at 7:40 AM on July 8, 2022 [13 favorites]

Fun fact -

There's a scene in Fifty Shades Darker where Anastasia Steele gets a promotion at a company in which she recently was a secretary, and she and her new secretary are having the "define our working relationship" talk.

Anastasia is played by Dakota Johnson - Melanie Griffith's daughter - and I'm not sure whether it was her idea or the directors' or whose, but Ana's line is directly lifted from the same conversation Tess has with her new secretary at the end of this film.

(Note: I did NOT watch Fifty Shades Darker, I just entertained myself with a couple of "how much the fifty shades movies stink" videos this weekend and that particular clip jumped out at me.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:23 AM on July 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

I remember this film mostly because it was fun to watch Sigourney Weaver play a villain and seem to have fun with it. (She also did a villain for the Netflix Marvel series The Defenders, and wasn't nearly as fun to watch as the superheroes squabbling.) That's what I mostly remember this for, as well as Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run", which won an Oscar, and seems like the sort of triumphalist power ballad that would be more appropriate for a movie about, say, someone curing cancer. Also, although I never watched it, there was a TV series starring a pre-stardom Sandra Bullock, with the evil boss being played by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Nana Visitor.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:30 PM on July 8, 2022 [6 favorites]

Wanted to post this movie for a long time, but couldn’t think of a good way.

I love this movie. Working Girl is one of those movies that I first saw as as a little kid who was old enough to understand the basics of the plot, Tess on the fast track. Over the years, I have had the joy of discovering all the little nuances of the movie, from Harrison changing his shirt in front of his secretaries to the meeting where Trask’s lieutenant says the boss knows everything and Harrison side-eyes the walls looking for hidden cams.

The supporting stars are all great. Joan Cusack, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin as the blue collar boyfriend. The guys who play Trask and Trask’s chief minion were eighties staples.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:01 PM on July 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

"Working Girl" is memorable to me for no other reason than its theme song. Carly hit it out of the park with "Let the River Run." As for the rest, "Working Girl" is another one of those gems from the 80s. Melanie Griffith arrived (the light that burns twice as bright only burns half as long). Harrison Ford turns in one of his better performances from his prime. Sigourney Weaver is the personification of the b-word. Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin, Trask and his minion (who appeared with Sigourney in "Ghostbusters" and Harrison in "Witness"!!!), all good. And Kevin Spacey playing a lecher! And Oliver Platt playing his wingman! Yeah, "Working Girl" is one of those movies that is a "who's who" of 80s and 90s actors and actresses. Like I said, it's a gem of a movie that fires on all cylinders.
posted by Stuka at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you’re going to mention everyone who played in other movies with that guy, don’t forget he one of the rescue sub guys in Hunt for Red October starring Alec Baldwin. No scenes together in Working Girl, but still! And we can’t forget the Oscar Winner in one scene, Olympia Dukakis assigning secretaries to the different executives.

For those who know pre-9/11 NYC, I have read this movie is bittersweet as some of the shooting was done on location in buildings that as no longer there.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:29 PM on July 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

It's ironic that Melanie Griffith's specialty was playing women that society underestimates and takes for granted and that she was so good at it, we tend to underestimate her and take her for granted.

Right? And here’s a kicker: Per the imdb trivia, Melanie Griffith got third billing below Weaver and Ford.
posted by mochapickle at 7:53 PM on July 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

don’t forget he one of the rescue sub guys in Hunt for Red October

And for that matter, both Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan within the next few years after this came out. (I think they cross paths in only one scene here... pretty sure I have not seen this since 1988.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:57 PM on July 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Complete this shoulder pads girlboss triplet:
Working Girl
Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead
posted by bartleby at 5:17 PM on July 9, 2022

Baby Boom with Diane Keaton?
posted by threecheesetrees at 6:55 PM on July 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Big Business, with Lily Tomlin and Bette Midler. Shoulder pads, girlbosses, twins switched at birth!
posted by mochapickle at 6:58 PM on July 9, 2022 [8 favorites]

This movie gets my vote for Best Movie Makeover Ever, and I also have a fondness for Harrison Ford's shirt change scene, but there are so many great moments in this movie and so much to love about it, from the theme song on down. I could have done without the Kevin Spacey scene, but otherwise it holds up really well and is just as much fun to watch as it was when it first came out. What a cast this movie has. A then-unknown David Duchovny even makes a brief appearance as one of the attendees of Tess's birthday party. Love Harrison Ford's boyish playfulness, Sigourney Weaver's elegant scenery-chewing villainess, and Joan Cusack as the best best friend ever.

"This isn't what it looks like!" -- Tess's boyfriend, when caught naked with an also naked friend of Tess's sitting astride him.

"Bitsy, don't break my heart and tell me you don't remember me!" -- Jack, in the wedding crashing scene to a bridesmaid named Bitsy, to whom he is a total stranger.

Mick: Tess, will you marry me?
Tess: Maybe.
Mick: Ya call that an answer?
Tess: You want another answer, ask another girl.
posted by orange swan at 9:19 AM on July 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Joan Cusack as Cyn has my favourite line, when she and Tess are browsing Catherine's wardrobe and she finds a dress with the price tag still attached: "$6000? It's not even leather!"

Love this film.
posted by HillbillyInBC at 10:56 AM on July 10, 2022 [3 favorites]

Such a great line!

And here in the year 2022, it’s finally dawned on me that the opening scene is a metaphor for the whole story. By coming in on the staten island ferry, she’s literally traveling against the current, against nature and gravity itself, to get to where she wants to be. And Tess takes this trip with bright eyes and a sense of purpose.

That’s why the song. I’d always thought the song felt like an odd choice, but now it makes more sense.
posted by mochapickle at 11:15 AM on July 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

The scene where both Cyn and Tess watch the chandelier and Cyn asks "Why does it do that?" And Tess replies for it to be cleaned. It's not an important scene, but it really hit me because it was one of those things I never thought about until I saw that moment and was equally awed. That even small throwaway scenes are awesome is impressive.
posted by miss-lapin at 12:47 PM on July 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is such a great movie and it really hit the mark with me at the time. I was in a corporate law firm, trying to navigate working in a 'man's world' at a time when, in the UK, we had a woman in power (Thatcher), but women in the workplace were still seen as second-class, there to serve the coffee and take the minutes, even if we were at the same level as the men we worked with. Looking back now, it's hard to believe the amount of sexism and misogyny we had to put up with, but those were different times, for sure.

The scene in the meeting where Tess was about to serve the coffee and then realised that, as a boss lady, she wouldn't need to do that, was a pivotal moment for me, as my confidence at owrk had been at an all-time low. Not long after I saw the movie, one of my male co-workers leaned back in his chair and yelled to me "how about a cup of coffee?". Thanks to this movie, I had the courage to say "no thanks, I just had one" rather than say "of course, milk and sugar?"

Although it seems dated now, I still love this film.
posted by essexjan at 1:53 PM on July 10, 2022 [27 favorites]

I haven't seen this in an embarrassing number of years, but a few of the comments about Griffith's performance here are making me think of the recent You Must Remember This episode about Melanie Griffith in Body Double. Longworth's commentary across the Erotic 80s series has me rethinking the ways I wrote off 1980s blonde bombshell actresses like Griffith as bimbos who don't have agency, but her self-awareness and sense of humor really jumped out at me and made me appreciate her work a little more.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:09 AM on July 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yeah, "Working Girl" is one of those movies that is a "who's who" of 80s and 90s actors and actresses.

I think David Duchovny is an extra in one scene, even.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Baby Boom with Diane Keaton?

That was used for She's Having Three Men and a Baby Boom.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:31 PM on July 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I kinda see Baby Boom as the prototype for Hallmark movies.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:14 PM on July 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

I haven't seen this in ages (and am definitely going to watch it again) but the things that stay with me from it that weren't already written here were the opening piece showing all the women wearing sneakers with their skirts and then changing into their heels at work (that was so smart! Why did that never occur to me? I was a teen raised on TV, where women always wore heels, that's why! Who knew you could dress fashionably and also be practical and who cares if you looked stupid in the in-between space if that's what works for you?). And how much I love the ending scene - not just the music, but the whole pullout shot showing all the offices, and the implication of just how many working girls there are out there, how many stories and opportunities there could be - which to young me was really inspirational.

Plus my mom's comment after we saw it in the theater: "That was so much fun! And Harrison Ford played the girl role!" (and a very sexy lamp he was)
posted by Mchelly at 9:41 AM on July 12, 2022 [3 favorites]

Complete this shoulder pads girlboss triplet:
Working Girl
Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead

I spent an embarrassing amount of time wondering why you were connecting Ti West's 70's-set porn crew meets a slasher story X to those first two movies.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:43 AM on July 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

another Mike (Leigh) directed Career Girls and it's one of my all-time favourites.

the similarities between these films are tenuous, but if you enjoy things about the one you might want to find other things to enjoy about the other. love love it

bonus points: pre-Gollum Andy Serkis!
posted by elkevelvet at 7:27 AM on July 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

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