Working Girl (1988) starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt, Kevin Spacey directed by Mike Nichols - movie review on The Movie Scene

Working Girl (1988)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Melanie Griffith and Joan Cusack in Working Girl (1988)

Griffith's Bod for Sin

Some movies that you enjoyed when first watched but not seen for a long time should stay that way. Why, because when you revisit them all those good memories are torn away as you realise that the movie was actually not that good or at least not after a few years. One such movie is "Working Girl" which stars Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver, a movie which I really enjoyed on its release back in the 80s. But having re-watched it 20 plus years later I was surprisingly disappointed with not so much that the look feels dated, and I do mean seriously dated, but in the fact that the storyline, comedy, romance feels surprisingly weak and even the wonderful Carly Simon Oscar winning song "Let the River Run" grates with its various repetitions. Although saying all of that "Working Girl" is not a terrible movie it just really isn't as impressive or enjoyable as I remember.

30 year old Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith - Body Double) is determined to make something of herself but she is stuck as a secretary in the male chauvinist world of the stock market. But when she starts to work for Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver - Gorillas in the Mist), she thinks that maybe she will get somewhere thanks to Katherine's encouraging words and willingness to listen to her ideas. That is until Katherine breaks her leg on holiday and whilst taking care of business for her Tess discovers that she was planning to steal her idea on how to save a business from takeover. Annoyed by her boss's deceitfulness as well as discovering her boyfriend cheating on her, Tess decides to take advantage of Katherine's forced absence and sets about doing the deal herself with the help of investment broker Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford - The Mosquito Coast). But with their business relationship turning romantic and Katherine's imminent return Tess may be opening a whole can of worms.

Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford in Working Girl (1988)

"Working Girl" is basically a combination of 2 storylines, a low level drama about an unscrupulous boss and then a romance, which are blended together with a reasonable amount of comedy. The trouble is that the storylines don't feel that strong or at least not compared to more modern movies. For me "Working Girl" seems to drift along quite a bit, floating along with the aid of a couple of sub-plots before it finally wraps things up in a double climax the first of which was pretty predictable and then a second which wasn't. I know that I really enjoyed the storyline when I first watched it but now it lacks the drive and pace to keep you engrossed in fact at times it all feels a little airy fairy.

But making up in some ways is the blend of comedy which at times is surprisingly enjoyable, at others a little strange. In the early scenes where Tess is being put upon by her male chauvinist colleagues it's quite funny as is the way she pretends to be someone else so that she can get her idea listened to. But then there are moments, such as Tess vacuuming topless in just her knickers which feels quite out of place and not as funny as I am sure it was intended. In fact I actually found it quite strange that in a fair few scenes we got to see Melanie Griffiths in what was then sexy underwear as well as topless a couple of times. I'm no prude but what is basically a romantic comedy these moments of nudity felt forced even by today's standards.

This leads me onto a very obvious point, "Working Girl" feels seriously dated, more dated than most movies I have re-watched from the 80s. Ignoring the fact that the technology on display through out the movie, from the computers to the exercise bikes are now museum pieces, the actual styling is quite shocking. Melanie Griffiths, big hair in the first part of the movie is quite shocking and not much better when she has it cut in an attempt to be taken seriously, but also the fashions seriously date this movie, including the sexy lingerie Tess favours.

On a positive note "Working Girl" still has some enjoyable memorable scenes; there is the very obvious shirt changing scene with Harrison Ford disrobing in his office to the applause of his female staff, plus the scene where Tess in a short skirt decides to use an exercise bike.

Performance wise well I have to say that Melanie Griffiths is surprisingly good as the vulnerable, unconfident Tess, despite the terrible hair and Harrison Ford does more than an adequate job of being the good looking leading man, the sort of role Richard Gere perfected in "Pretty Woman". Although the chemistry between Griffiths and Ford doesn't seem quite right on the other hand when it comes to the humour they work brilliantly together. Then there is the sexy Sigourney Weaver who does a brilliant job as the villainous boss, who behind her smile is as devious as any villain. Between Griffiths, Ford and Weaver they do manage to make "Working Girl" still enjoyable despite its shortfalls.

What is surprising is the number of recognizable faces appearing in supporting roles with the most significant being Joan Cusack as Tess's equally big haired friend Cyn, a role very similar to what Judy Greer has made her own in more modern romantic comedies. Plus there is Alec Baldwin, looking surprisingly like Eric McCormack in "Will & Grace", as Tess's love rat of a boyfriend. To top it off there is Kevin Spacey playing a sleazy, drug snorting executive and a slightly slimmer looking Oliver Platt as a chauvinist stock broker.

One of the things which I loved about "Working Girl" the first time round was the powerful Carly Simon song "Let the River Run" and although feeling a little 80s still sounds brilliant when sung by the choir over the opening credits. But then through out the movie several variations of the music are used and by the time "Working Girl" had finished it was starting to grate a little due to the repetition.

What this all boils down to is that although I loved "Working Girl" when it first came out it no longer leaves me so enthused as it once did. Compared to more modern romantic comedies it feels slightly drawn out and lacking the impetuous it needs which makes it feel every minute of its 113 minute length. Add to this that not only the look but several elements, such as the nudity, feels very dated lets down the good performances from it's stars Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver. It's enjoyable but not as enjoyable as I remembered.


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