Working Girls (1986)

Working Girls (1986)

[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]

“Make sure the client is completely comfortable before you take any money.”

A Yale graduate (Louise Smith) works part-time in a Manhattan brothel while pursuing her dreams of a career in photography.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Feminism and Women’s Issues
  • Prostitutes and Gigolos

This follow-up to director Lizzie Borden’s auspicious debut film (1983’s Born in Flames) is a noticeable omission from Peary’s book, given that it’s ultimately even more successful than its heavy-handed predecessor. Twenty years after its release, Working Girls — a fictionalized “day in the life” docudrama — remains the most revealing and honest look at female prostitution ever committed to film, offering viewers a refreshingly de-glamorized glimpse into the day-to-day operations of a modern brothel. Through an array of diverse prostitutes and johns, we learn why young women may choose this lucrative yet socially denigrated profession; how they bond together to laugh behind the backs of their often-ridiculous clients; how they maintain cleanliness and efficiency in their “office”; how they ensure that their clients aren’t cops (johns are ordered to “get completely comfortable” — i.e., strip off all their clothing — before handing over money); and how there’s no honor among thieves when it comes to ambitious “pimps” like Madam Lucy (deliciously portrayed by Ellen McElduff). While Borden and Sandra Kay’s script is undeniably didactic at times, and the performances are mostly amateurish (Smith and McElduff stand out as the exceptions), it’s difficult not to get caught up in the lives of Molly and her motley co-workers.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Louise Smith as Molly
  • Ellen McElduff as “Madam Lucy”
  • Molly’s hilarious session with “Fantasy Fred”
  • A refreshingly unglamorized inside-glimpse at the world’s oldest profession

Must See?
Yes, as a one-of-a-kind original.


  • Good Show


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