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