Welcome to a He Said/ She Said review of films! We’re just two newlyweds trying to navigate sharing the Netflix queue while balancing our diverging tastes in movie genres. Sometimes we agree – and sometimes one of us loses our place in line!] [Feels odd to give a “head’s up” for a film from the ‘80s, but this review contains spoilers.]
The film features Melanie Griffith as title character Tess McGill – a hardworking secretary who desperately wants a leg up in the world of high finance. Tess’s boss, Katherine Parker [Sigourney Weaver], claims to have her back; but it’s actually Parker’s boyfriend Jack Trainer [Harrison Ford] that helps Tess put together a landmark, life-changing business deal.
This film is an absolute standout. The trio of lead actors are tops and you’ll be blown away to also see a hot, young Alec Baldwin (as Mick Dugan, Tess’s naughty boyfriend), Joan Cusack (as Cynthia, Tess’s dyed-in-the-wool New Jerseyan best friend), Oliver Platt (with only two chins, as Tess’s awful first boss) and Kevin Spacey (as sleazoid Bob Speck) – not to mention cameos from Olympia Dukakis, Nora Dunn, Rikki Lake and David Duchovny! The tight directing by Mike Nichols (The Graduate) and a snappy script by Kevin Wade ensure that this movie stands the test of time. The film garnered several Oscar nods at the 61st Academy Awards.
The movie opens with Tess and Cynthia chatting as they take the Staten Island Ferry to work in the big city. In case you weren’t sure when this was filmed, the awful hair, makeup and clothing will surely clue you in!
He Said: Rated R? That means nudity. Yay, I love nudity!
She Said: Why is Joan dressed as a clown?
He Said: When you have a forehead that large, you really shouldn’t wear your bangs that high.
She Said: Actually, you should never wear your hair that high. That’s too high – even for Texas.
He Said: I’m gonna go back in time and sell hair products. That’s obviously a moneymaker. Seriously, Joan’s (Cynthia) look is scaring me. This is really Attack of the Killer Clowns, right? Are you fuckin’ with me?
Soon Tess is done with another horrible workday, after a nasty coke-fueled tussle with Bob Speck, and heads home to Mick, her live-in boyfriend.
She Said: Crawl into bed with me and my greasy hair, baby! Man, I’d forgotten how hot Alec Baldwin was. Meow!
He Said: Come sit on my carpet!
She Said: So, I heard Kevin Spacey hasn’t changed much – as far as being a dick. But as far as being an addict, it was actually Melanie who allegedly had the coke problem, back in the day. I remember hearing that she got in a lot of trouble during filming this role – not legally; but from the producers, who hated how bloated she looked onscreen.
He Said: Well, I’m not surprised. She looks like shit. By the way, I always thought this film was about a prostitute.
She Said: What?
He Said: No, seriously. You know, Pretty Woman…. Working Girl.
She Said: I see where you’re going with that.
Enter Tess’s new boss, Katherine Parker. In the beginning of the film, McGill is working at a different firm, but quits after her run in with Speck. She’s reassigned to Penny Marsh Associates, as Parker’s new assistant/secretary.
It’s Mall Claw vs. Class – and it’s a fight to the death!
He Said: Yay, Sigourney Weaver – always a welcome sight! And she has normal hair.
She Said: Yep – first sign of class is the lack of a “mall claw.” Sigourney is such a kick-ass actress. She plays the bitch to a T.
He Said: You can always tell the ones who actually studied acting. I like the zippy dialogue. It’s kinda cool. Weaver’s pitch-perfect delivery doesn’t hurt either.
Tess walks in on Mick in flagrante delicto with her pal from the neighborhood, Doreen. Mick has a great line about, “It’s not what it looks like,” – even as a nude Doreen sits astride his manhood. Yep, Mick has balls – literally and metaphorically! Tess shouts out a pithy retort and runs off to sulk on a nearby dock.
He Said: Nudity – all right! Hey, there’s steam behind someone – that’s how you know it’s the ‘80s! [A lovely shot of Tess, with steam rising behind her on the dock.]
She Said: Yes, steam can convey so much emotion!
Katherine Parker breaks her leg, leaving Tess in charge of her office – and, ultimately, her personal life as well. Tess takes advantage of her boss’s accident and uses the unsupervised time to make inroads of her own in the business world – including setting up a meeting with a certain Jack Trainer.
She Said: Oh, Tess’s hair is getting lower. It’s character development through hair. Now it’s official. She looks a little better. Passable.
He Said: I still wouldn’t fuck her with Alec Baldwin’s dick.
She Said: What a comfort!
He Said: Yay, it’s Harrison Ford. What Blade Runner movie is this?
She Said: Come to think of it, Melanie Griffith looks a little like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner in this film. Flirtation ensues [between Tess & Jack at a cocktail party]. Like we’re supposed to buy that he prefers Tess to Katherine?
He Said: We could’ve had Star Wars meets Alien. Damn! Instead we’ve got The Year of Living Boringly. At least this makes a lot more sense than Flashdance [which I tried to make Larry watch during our honeymoon].
She Said: Yes, it’s actually got a plot – and dialogue!
Tess and Jack plan a huge deal and present it to Trask Industries. She decides to move ahead in business after finding out Katherine betrayed her in a really big way. Joan Cusack’s character continues to pop up as the voice of reason to Tess’s high-flying ambition.
Nail biting never looked so sexy!
She Said: Oh, my god. Bless Joan Cusack’s heart. Seriously, why do they have her done up as a clown? People in the ‘80s didn’t look that terrible. Joan looks like a Keane print (the kids with the big eyes).
He Said: Drink when the eye shadow reaches the brows! That’s a no-no, right? She’s adorable – but she’s never looked worse.
She Said: Honey, have you been reading Cosmo again? Woot, woot – it’s the Pointer Sisters! Do you think our neighbors will call in a noise complaint?
Tess shows up at Cynthia’s engagement party, where Mick is unwisely encouraged to also propose to Tess. Tess is looking less and less like she’s from New Jersey and her friends are befuddled by the change. Mick delivers perhaps the best line of the film, “You look good; classy. What, did you have to go to traffic court or somethin’?”
He Said: Ah, a key scene. I can tell by the fact that music blows ass. What the hell is this?
She Said: Dude, it’s [Chris de Burgh’s] Lady in Red!
He Said: I don’t want to Pay The Ferryman.
Katherine checks in on Tess and informs her she’ll be back at work soon. Tess flips into panic mode – she’s got a big business meeting coming up and going back to being a plain old secretary is seriously going to crimp her style [but not her hair]. Cynthia/Joan still disapproves of her friend’s big plans, thusly delivering yet another brilliant zinger, “Sometimes I dance around in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna; never will.”
He Said: That’s a really good line.
She Said: It’s a really good script.
He Said: The pacing is great; the movie is moving forward. Everyone’s wonderful – except for the lead. There are some quality actors involved!
She Said: Wow, that’s high praise coming from you!
He Said: Well, he [Mike Nichols] did do one of my favorite movies [The Graduate].
Tess and Jack succumb to passion after the big business meeting, making out in the lobby of Trask Industries.
She Said: Now that’s a merger! Sealing the deal. Putting the spit on the envelope. I could go all day!
He Said: I have to say; I really don’t see their relationship happening. Great acting and script – but that part isn’t quite believable.
She Said: Yeah, the chemistry isn’t the hottest.
Big dreams, short hair.
Finally it’s the convergence of Katherine, Jack, and Tess at Trask Industries. This is so ‘80s – romance, Wall Street, steam, and big business. And cocaine. Don’t forget the coke!
She Said: OMG – I’ve seen this movie several times since it first came out and I still cry at the ending every time. This film racked up a bunch of Oscar noms.
He Said: Really? How come I’ve never heard of it? Where was I? Sleeping under an indie-rock rock?
She Said: I like that it ends with her success. It’s a rom-com, but it’s not all about the guy. Any last words?
He Said: The music sucks.
She Said: We established that.
He Said: We saw one tit. Teat? I’m really not sure why it was rated R – especially compared to movies today. Alec was sadly wasted. Joan should be a star.
She Said: Aren’t you glad you saw it?
He Said: It enriched my life! One more Harrison Ford movie down. Eventually I’ll see ‘em all.
She Said: Ha! We’ll see about that when it comes to Morning Glory.
An absolute classic and well worth a visit to the ‘80s – as if most hipsters aren’t currently residing there already!
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a haircut scares you.
Take a Drink: every time the music sucks.
Take a Drink: every time you think, “Wow – so that’s what cock bloat looks like.” Whoops! I meant coke bloat.
Take a Shot: whenever a Carly Simon tune swells in the background.