Tuesday, January 12, 2016

What a Way To Make a Living

9 to 5
Director: Colin Higgins
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman
Released: December 19, 1980

Oscar nominations:
Best Original Song - Dolly Parton for "Nine to Five" (Lost to Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford for "Fame")


I have long been familiar with the snappy song, "Nine to Five" sung by Dolly Parton, but had never seen the movie she had sung it for and starred in until just recently. While I knew it was a workplace comedy, I really never knew what exactly was about and now I think that Horrible Bosses got its inspiration from it...although that movie was a lot darker! 

Violet (Lily Tomlin), Judy (Jane Fonda), and Doralee (Dolly Parton) all work at a place called Consolidated Companies and their boss, Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman) is, and I quote, "a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot." I'm not really sure what they do at this place, but there's lots of writing of reports and answering of calls and making of copies. 

Violet has been at the company for eleven years. She has by far the most experience out of anyone else and knows everything there is to know about the company. She is expecting to be rewarded with the big promotion Mr. Hart will be giving to someone soon. Judy is the new woman at the company and Violet shows her around and introduces her to everyone and warns her about Mr. Hart and tells her to watch out for Roz, the office snitch who goes and tattles on Mr. Hart anytime she hears a piece of gossip. Doralee is Mr. Hart's secretary and everyone hates her because they think she's sleeping with the boss. He sexually harasses her and when she tells him that she's a married woman, his reply is that he's married too and that's what makes it perfect for them to have an affair. 

Violet is beyond furious when she learns that the promotion has gone to a man who has been at the company five years less than her. Mr. Hart explains to her that he got the job because people would rather deal with a man than a woman in that particular situation (whichever that might be...I'm not sure what the promotion was for!) Judy is furious at Mr. Hart when a woman gets fired for being overheard by Roz that they are getting unfair wages. Doralee is furious when she learns that Mr. Hart has been spreading rumors that they are having an affair. The three woman get a drink, then later smoke a joint and share their fantasies about getting even with their jerk boss. Judy's fantasy is to hunt him down and mount his head as a trophy kill on his office wall (where he keeps his other trophy kills like deer). I would have thought this would be more apt to Doralee's fantasy because she's the one who keeps a gun in her purse! (She is from Texas, after all!) She threatens Mr. Hall that if he continues to tell people they are having an affair, she'll take her gun and change him from a rooster to a hen with one shot! Doralee's fantasy is that she wants to turn the tables on Mr. Hart and give him "a taste of his own medicine" and be the one to sexually harass him and oogle his body. This seems like a lame fantasy. I would imagine somebody in her position would rather call out their harasser as being the pig they are. Although at the end of her fantasy, she's roasting him over a fire like a pig. Violet's fantasy is that she's like Snow White (dressed in a similar costume) and Mr. Hart is akin to the Evil Queen and she poisons his morning coffee. There are animated animals in her fantasy which I'm impressed they could do way back in 1980. I didn't think being able to mix live action and animation was achieved until 1988 with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 

The next day, Mr. Hart is rushed to the hospital right after Violet gives him his coffee. She freaks out and thinks she's poisoned him when she realizes she's accidentally put rat poison in his coffee instead of the sweet and low. You see, the rat poison and sweet and low are both kept in boxes of the same color and size and are kept in the same cabinet on the same shelf...wtf? I don't know if this is just a plot device or if people were really that stupid in the early '80s and kept food and poison in the same cabinet! I'm hoping and guessing it's the former! What really happened is that Mr. Hart fell out of his chair and hit his head. He had been having trouble with his office chair in prior scenes. He spilled his coffee and never drank it, but Violet has no idea and she and Judy rush to the hospital where Doralee took him.

Mr. Hart is fine and walks out and in the same room he was in, they bring in a man they're trying to revive, but he dies. The women arrive when the doctor talks to a police officer telling him the man in the room has died and he thinks it was poisoning. This mistaken identity reminded me of the scene in Adventures in Baby-Sitting when the doctor tells Elisabeth Shue that the young man with the stab room died, but he was actually talking about another person and not Brad. Violet is sure this means jail time for her and wants to get rid of the body before they can do an autopsy on it and confirm that it was indeed poisoning. When no one's looking, she takes the body on the gurney and wheels it to her car and puts it in the trunk. They find out the body isn't Mr. Hart, and confused, sneak it back to the hospital. 

The next day all the women are confused, but relieved when Mr. Hart comes to work, quite alive. They discuss the matter in the bathroom and are glad to get on with their lives. They had checked under the stalls and nobody was in any of them, but when they leave we see Roz the snitch had been there the whole time with her feet up on the toilet taking notes with toilet paper! OMG, is this woman for real? I would hate to work with someone like her! She, of course, snitches to Mr. Hart and he confronts the women and threatens to have them all prosecuted for attempting to kill him and will only forget about it if Doralee sleeps with him. 

During this time, Mr. Hart's wife is on a cruise so the women decide to kidnap him in his own house. They keep him tied up (though he is free to move around in the bedroom) and bring him his meals and always have somebody at the house to watch him. They find a way to blackmail him when Violet discovers he's been embezzling money and want to keep him tied up until they have evidence to prove it. Their only obstacle is Roz because after a few days she starts to get suspicious on where Mr. Hart is since she sees him every day. They finally send her to Paris when they tell her Mr. Hart wants her to go there to learn French. (I don't know why you would have to go all the way there just to learn the language...haven't these people ever heard of Rosetta Stone? Haha!) 

While Mr. Hart is "away", the three women pretty much run the place and make up new rules and even give the office a new makeover. The women who was fired unfairly is given her job back and a daycare center is put in. When Mr. Hart is finally released after the women know he will not snitch on them, he gives the Chairman of the Board a tour of the places and all its new amenities even though Violet has to explain everything since Mr. Hart has no idea about any of it. The Chairman is so impressed by what Mr. Hart did that he sends him to Brazil to oversee their operation. Everyone is happy except for Roz who never got to say goodbye to him.

When this movie came out, Dolly Parton was 34, Lily Tomlin was 41, and Jane Fonda was 43. With the huge Granny glasses and the awful old lady hair cut she has, I would have guessed Jane Fonda to be closer to the age she is now - which is nearly 80! I don't know why people dressed so horribly and had terrible hair cuts in the early '80s...why would you want to look two decades older than what you actually are? Don't get me wrong, I love the '80s, but I'm kind of glad I was a baby/little kid during it! 

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