Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9 TO 5

(December 1980, U.S.)

When you're a kid and you love going to the movies and you're raised by parents who won't take you that often (darn you mother and father!!!), the family picks and chooses its films that they'll put in the time and effort to go out and see. This sort of dedication was reserved for films like GREASE, SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE and even Rocky Balboa's rematch with Apollo Creed. That being the case, 9 TO 5 wasn't exactly a film we rushed to go see, despite its popularity at the time and that damned Dolly Parton song all over the fucking radio!

Wait!!! Having mentioned that song, I have to interrupt my blog and interject a quick personal story on this matter right now. In 1992, I went on a first date with a girl I'd been set up with by a another girl I was working with. Somewhere over the course of dinner, this chick casually mentions that "9 To 5" was her favorite song of all time (???)! Man, if that isn't a shallow, closed-minded, Seinfeld-ish reason to not go on a second date with someone, I don't know what is! Guys, you with me on this or what???

(sorry for disgressing, but...damn!)

So as I was saying, we didn't rush to see 9 TO 5. Instead, we waited several months until the film made it to the local neighborhood second-run movie theater where each seat was a mere one or two dollars on a day when we had nothing else to do. I suppose it was then that we saw what all the fuss was about. Whether you would choose to identify 9 TO 5 as a chick movie, a feminist statement or a perfect slice of (somewhat) realistic life in the modern office environment of 1980, the movie is just plain funny. Perhaps now it's even funnier as one could consider it a real period piece. One of the first things the modern generation will notice is that there isn't one computer screen on any of the desks in 9 TO 5. Notice also that the idea of sexual harassment is a subject that's meant to be considered humorous many years before it would be a real issue in the media and in the courtrooms. One issue that's likely not dated in any way is that many employers that we're forced to call "boss" are undeniable assholes who only seek to make our lives in the office miserable, be you man or woman. By the film's message, if you're a woman in a secretarial position (today they're be called office managers), you're constantly being screwed and belittled by the boss and you're powerless to do anything about it if you want to keep your job. But because this is comedy, and because it's decades before a film like HORRIBLE BOSSES (2011) would be created, the obvious solution is to kidnap your boss, blackmail him and enforce positive changes in the office during his (forced) absence. And all the while a twelve year-old like myself is laughing during all of this, it's impossible to recognize that this film is also meant to stand as an example of the ongoing feminist movement that had started in the late 1960s. I wouldn't know that until decades later in life when Jane Fonda spoke of it in the DVD extras. As a kid, it simply didn't occur to me.

So having reviewed whatever social importance 9 TO 5 may have stood for at the time, it's easy to see how Jane Fonda, Lilly Tomlin and Dolly Parton could generate the right comic chemistry that could make audiences laugh. Fonda, for all her seriousness in the 1970s (FUN WITH DICK AND JANE excluded), looks rather pathetically silly as a woman who appears to be afraid of her own shadow, let alone the monster Xerox machine. Take a look...

Not exactly the intense hooker in KLUTE (1971), Barbarella or the angry real life demonstrator against the Vietnam War, is she?? But under pressure, her character of Judy Bernly is actually the one with some real spunk when the shit starts to come down. Lilly Tomlin as Violet Newstead is the sturdy, solid one who actually becomes comically unravelled at times when the shit starts to come down. She's undeniably believable in everything she does, though. You can actually believe that she'd accidentally put rat poison in her boss's coffee without realizing it. The three of them, in fact, are quite believable and truly sympathetic when they're all sitting around getting high and fantasizing about the different ways they'd love to kill their boss. Because, let's face it, we've all done that! Actually, I was a lot kinder and simply wished one of my old bosses a quick, violent heart attack...the Nazi bastard!

And so...before TV's THE OFFICE...before HORRIBLE BOSSES...even before Michael Crichton's DISCLOSURE, 9 TO 5 showed us all just what a shitty place the common office was (and still is!) and all of the positive energy we could use to change all that, make it all better and go away forever! Does it ever work? Probably not.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Buffy the candy-striper: "Oh, you're a doctor! I'm sorry. I didn't see your badge."
Violet (looking at her badge and realizing the white doctor's lab coat she's stolen): "I'm a doctor. So why the hell am I talking to you? Piss off!"

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