Working Girl (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A rare example of a popular entertainment which does better with the critics than with the general public ratings at IMDb.

This is actually an excellent movie. It's a real-life version of "Pretty Woman", stripped of all the crap and grounded in things that really could happen. The movie turned Melanie Griffith, at least temporarily, from a bombshell into a credible mainstream star.

Melanie plays a secretary who has the brains, knowledge, and aggressiveness to be a big-time wheeler-dealer in corporate finance, but nobody will give her the chance. She doesn't have the right look (teased hair, cheap jewelry), she doesn't have the right voice (Melanie Griffith), she doesn't talk like she came from either the Wharton School or the Seven Sisters, she grew up on Staten Island, and she got a night school degree.

But she does have the right stuff, if she could only get a chance to use it. She thinks the chance has come when she is assigned to a female boss and can therefore avoid the sexual pursuit that her previous bosses foisted on her. Things go well at first, until she finds out that her boss is simply trying to steal her ideas and take credit for them. She gets her big chance when the boss is hurt skiing, and she decides to steal back her own idea by pretending to be an executive from her own firm, and making the deal work herself.

She then undergoes the change in clothing and style necessary to pull it all off. The fortunate plot twist is that her boss, while convalescing in New England, asked Mel to watch the apartment - an apartment full of the right clothing and perfumes to pull the ruse off on her present salary.

She does eventually get the deal done, and she even gets the right guy, so it has some "Pretty Woman" fantasy elements to it, but it stays grounded in reality:
  • Even though she's pulled off a multi-zillion dollar deal, she only gets offered an entry-level position at the end.
  • But even this position fills her with elation. She is ecstatic about the tiny office, because she knows she's been given control of her own future.

Tell you what, the author really knew his stuff, although he never wrote anything else memorable. The characters are interesting and multi-dimensional. (Even Sigourney Weaver, as a corporate snake, doesn't seem two-dimensional, but is actually similar to many corporate snakes I really knew.) 


In a classic scene, Melanie vacuums an apartment while wearing only her panties. She also shows a nipple in close-up in a sex scene. Most of her buns are seen several times in skimpy underpants.

Elizabeth Whitcraft is seen completely naked, including pubes in a sex scene with Alec Baldwin. Baldwin shows only the side of his buns, and only from a distance.

Sigourney Weaver is seen in a semi-transparent bra.

Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith are charming. The script is funny and touching, and there is a feel-good, but not unrealistic ending.

This film taps into a real recognizable reality. When I became the head of strategic planning for a big company back in the eighties, I didn't know how I was going to staff my newly formed department. It isn't like people were going to abandon their promising careers and lavish lifestyles in marketing to come work for me in a small new department which had to prove its credibility. Whoever said necessity was the mother of invention wasn't just whistling Dixie. He might have gone further and said that desperation is invention's real mother. I decided that the only really important currency in strategic planning is brainpower. In marketing, you can't just hire brainy geeks because presentation and salesmanship are actually more important than ideas. Even in finance, you can't just hire for brains because they have to interact with bankers and such types who want people to fit into a certain mold. But I didn't have to worry about that. Our currency was ideas, and nothing more. So, in complete desperation, I turned to our corporate psychologist and asked him to tell me the people who simply scored highest on our internal testing. For some reason, our company gave lots of standardized tests like the Miller Analogies and the Raven Advanced Matrices and such. Apparently they had validated a connection between these tests and certain types of job performance. The reason doesn't matter, the point is that we had the scores and I used 'em. Two of the three highest in the company were a secretary and an entry-level programmer in MIS, both women. I suppose if they had been men with such brains, they wouldn't have been available, they never would have been allowed to languish in task-oriented jobs, but they were, and I swiped 'em away from their bosses, because both were nice people in addition to their impressive IQ's.

I'll tell you this, there's no substitute for brainpower, and those people, like Melanie in this film, were out there, and they did great. (Both women are now in the big leagues, by the way)

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no significant features

Which brings me to the one unrealistic thing in the movie. If one of those two women wrote a brilliant analysis of why we should or shouldn't pursue a brilliant strategy, I wouldn't have thought for a minute about taking credit for it. I'd go out of my way not to, because in the corporate environment, the ability to find, train and cultivate subordinates is more important than one's own brainpower. Brainpower can only get you to a job as advisor to the king. Getting good work out of others can get you the throne. So in this case, Sigourney wouldn't brag about her brilliant idea. Rather, she'd brag about how she unearthed a brilliant corporate talent that everyone ignored, even though it was right under their noses. That would be much better corporate-level upsucking. Companies have dozens of brilliant analysts, but only one CEO, and developing people is what gets you the big chair.

That's a minor flaw, however, and there are corporate types like Sigourney who don't look at the long-term picture, but merely try to grab credit for everything in the short run, so there was nothing unbelievable about her doing that.

Good movie. Melanie's blue-collar friends and other minor players were also realistic. Good score from Carly Simon. Recommended as an entertaining film, recommended for sexy costumes and nudity.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 4/4, Maltin 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.5
  • With their dollars ... Not a mega-hit, but solid. It grossed $64 million domestically, and has garnered another $30 million in rental income.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

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