Nine to Five (1980)

“Let’s face it — we’re in a pink-collar ghetto!”

Synopsis:
Three female co-workers (Jane Fonda, Lili Tomlin, and Dolly Parton) seek revenge on their sexist male boss (Dabney Coleman).

Genres:

Review:
This groundbreaking comedy about sexual discrimination in the workplace has held up surprisingly well, thanks in no small part to the lead performances: Parton (in her acting debut) sparkles, Tomlin has rarely been funnier, and Dabney Coleman’s turn as a sexist pig is priceless. While the script is unnecessarily clumsy (the entire slapstick hospital sequence seems gratuitous, for instance), there are enough genuinely humorous moments to hold interest. Ultimately, while the focus on Nine to Five may be specifically female, the desire to seek revenge against one’s boss remains universal — one can’t help feeling vicarious satisfaction upon seeing Coleman held hostage for weeks on end while the three women turn things around in the office. Who knew that a film about sexual harassment and gender politics could be such a feel-good experience?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Lili Tomlin as Violet
    Tomlin
  • Dolly Parton in her film debut as Doralee
    Parton
  • Dabney Coleman as the “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot”
    Dabney
  • The hilarious revenge fantasy sequences
    Revenge
  • A groundbreaking look at sexual harassment in the workplace
    Harassment
  • Parton’s infectious title song

Must See?
Yes. Though uneven, this classic workplace comedy remains must-see viewing. It would make a great double-bill with the modern cult hit Office Space (1999).

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One Response to “Nine to Five (1980)”

  1. Rather in agreement here – it is a must if you somehow never got around to catching it; but, even though it has held up better than one might expect thirty years on, I wouldn’t call it one of the all-time great comedies. It’s charming, has some terrific one-liners – it’s one of those movies that’s quite entertaining while you’re watching it but not a film that keeps on giving during repeat viewings. (That hospital section midway sure does slow things up some, it’s true.)

    An important film of its time, however.

    Director Colin Higgins coaxed vibrant performances from just about everybody here, and there are many recognizable ‘types’ on display. The leads are fine and work comfortably well as a trio. Coleman is a great a-hole. I do have a special fondness for some of the talented character actresses on the periphery: Elizabeth Wilson as the efficiency spy, Marian Mercer as Coleman’s clueless wife, and Peggy Pope as the office alkie. Sterling Hayden’s sudden appearance in the last ten minutes is a delight.

    And, dang, Parton’s title song will probably always remain catchy!

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