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Female story way before it's time!
Watch this movie not with the lens of here and now, but from the 80's, when Michael J Fox was making a lucrative living playing up and coming young businessmen, Wall Street's "Greed is Good" was the catch phrase on everyone's lips. Everyone was working 80 hours a week trying to make their way to the corner office. I was a young woman working in corporate America at that time and along comes this twist on that same old plot - with women. It really resonated with me. Tess McGill was like a lot of us at the time: capable, but ignored by a "good ol' boy network" that still held sway. So it was a film that came along at the right time. It was smart casting and smart of the actors to take them - both Sigourney Weaver and Harrison Ford needed the opportunity to break free of the iconic roles they were in danger of being pigeon-holed in. Sure the Jersey girl makeup (oh, that that atrocious eye shadow), big hair (but let's face, everything was big in the 80's) and awful jewelry, was over the top, but confess it: you laughed at Joan Cusack didn't you? In short, it may seem dated to you now, but if you frame it correctly, you'll appreciate the portrait it gives you of the hard-working, hard-living 80's.
I am a big fan of romantic comedies as The Lady Eve (1941), A New Leaf (1971) and The Apartment (1960) are among my favorite films but this supposedly classic staple of the genre never quite grabbed me. The biggest issue with the film is that the central character and romance are by far the least interesting part of the film as the supporting characters steal the show completely and leave you wanting more of them while being bored by the comparatively less interesting main plot. This isn't one of the best romantic comedies of the 1980s as When Harry Met Sally… (1989), Shirley Valentine (1989) and even Heartburn (1986) produce more laughs and genuine chemistry between the two leads.
Secretary Tess McGill, Melanie Griffith, begins working under stockbroker Katharine Parker, Sigourney Weaver, after causing trouble under her previous employer. McGill initially believes that she has a strong working relationship with Parker but is annoyed when she discovers that the business idea she had come up with was used by Parker without her receiving any credit and decides to stand in for Parker while she is incapacitated in hospital. She encounters businessman Jack Trainer, Harrison Ford, while attempting to close the deal and after an awkward first night together the two begin a romantic relationship while trying to push the deal forward. When Parker returns McGill's life is thrown into a tailspin but she eventually regains her career after proving that the idea was hers all along.
McGill is presented as the underdog, the type of character we should easily be able to root for, yet Griffith never really sells us on this being the sort of woman who could make business deals and seduce the man she is negotiating against. Her screen presence, or lack thereof, puts the kibosh on us ever really getting into the central narrative of the film as we are left rudderless watching this vacuous nothing with big hair make her way around an office. It is only when Joan Cusack appears, playing her supportive best friend, that we are drawn to someone but she is taken away from us almost as soon as she bursts onto the screen and we have to wait for the arrival of Weaver as the "villain" to experience any excitement again. The fact that I cared about the villain who is presented as an insufferable woman more than our lead shows how much Griffith destroyed this film as she took a role that Meg Ryan or a young Barbra Streisand could have really done something with and leaves you with nothing.
Beyond Griffith the whole film really isn't all that funny or romantic. Cusack and Weaver get all the best lines as Weaver's attempted seduction of Ford and her time in the hospital feature her spewing some delightful comic lines but these scenes are few and far between. The scenes between Griffith and Ford inspire very little interest from the audience because they have so little chemistry and the dialogue they are served with is cringe worthy, "I have a head for business and a bod for sin." I needed to feel some sort of passion or real desire between them to carry me through the lethargic mid section of the film and yet the wedding that they attend and their ‘romantic' love scene were the dullest moments in the film. The perfect romantic comedy achieves a lovely blend of the two genres but this film is not that as it fails to produce either element for a long enough period of time to stand up to the expectations of it's genre.
I wish that Heartburn received more recognition as Mike Nichols does manage to balance romance and comedy there with the help of a very witty and intelligent screenplay from the goddess Nora Ephron. As for this film I am surprised by the fact that it received a Best Picture nomination even when considering the fact that the 1988 lineup was not particularly strong. Why couldn't they have nominated Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You've Got Mail (1998), Say Anything… (1989), Roxanne (1987) or Cinderella Liberty (1973) for Best Picture in previous years rather than showering this mediocre example of the genre with awards recognition.
Crap! The only word that pretty much sums up this film. Corny and predictable doesn't even begin to describe this piece of tripe! And Melanie Griffith's bad acting and abnormally big hair doesn't really do much other than annoy you. For me I'll give this film half a star. Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver are the only 2 actors that salvage this sinking film, so for that I'd add an extra 2 stars.
After being pimped out by her former employer, forward-thinking secretary Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) begins working for friendly-on-the-surface mergers and acquisitions agent Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). But when Tess accidentally discovers that her new boss is planning on stealing her idea, Tess takes advantage of a golden opportunity (Katharine breaking her leg in a skiing accident) to make a name for herself . . . even if she has to bend a few rules to do so. However, when she begins to fall in love with potential business partner Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) - and then finds out Jack is Katharine's soon-to-be-ex-flame - things become more complicated than she could have imagined.
This is the kind of nice, pleasant comedy drama you might watch on a rainy afternoon. Griffith is suitably charming in her lead role. Ford is ever the dashing love interest in his. Weaver rounds off the triangle with her deliciously underhanded (albeit all too briefly seen) performance. And that is the biggest problem this film suffers from: all of the sharp edges have been rounded off. It's too gentle of a love story to turn the business world on its head and yet it's too reliant upon its corporate plot to be a breezy "meet cute" of a movie. It's not sexy enough. It's not scathing enough. It's not insightful enough. It's not romantic enough. It simply doesn't stand out enough.
It feels like the film is being torn apart by its two halves and it should have picked one direction to travel in instead of splitting itself in two. With Griffith and Weaver taking the wheel, they could have steered this film down a road of sarcastic humor and biting lessons in business etiquette that would have been far more interesting without the shoe-horned romantic subplot. Conversely, had this gone the direct romantic route and focused solely on Griffith's failing relationship with supporting cast member Alec Baldwin by finding solace in the arms of Ford, this could have been a deeply passionate love story that would have ignited silver screens around the world.
In the end, it's still a slightly above average time waster that disappoints mostly due to the fact that we've seen better films from director Mike Nichols. Nichols seems to be standing in the middle of the aisle, playing it safe for his own corporate masters in the movie industry. It's hard to believe this is the same filmmaker who gave us the counter cultural classic "The Graduate" or the caustic "Catch-22." Maybe I'm to blame for wanting more from the movie than Nichols and inexperienced screenwriter Kevin Wade were willing to give.
If ever there was a piece of capitalist propaganda (and hey right in time for capitalism's swan-song one year after its 1988 realise) this is it! All you need to be happy is that big corner office in a fine Manhattan based concern, and you'll be OK! All the cast are pretty good in this but I enjoyed best wise owl Philip Bosco as tycoon-does-good Oren Trask.
Melanie Griffith is the ultimate girl next door does well in this very enjoyable story about trying to climb the career ladder, when you come from a less salubrious class than your superiors. It fills its 2 hours really well.
And you cant forget those killer scenes of New York.
Story about a woman trying to make it in the tough business world. Excellently directed movie by Nicols. Not a scene in this movie that isn't magic. Sigourny Weaver should have won best supporting actress instead of Geena Davis. One of my favorite movies ever.
Fantastic 80s movie. Challenges traditional gender and class roles, and shows how an exclusive system can pit us against each other rather than giving each other the opportunity to share and thrive in success.
I've loved this movie since it came out 30 years ago. Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigorney Weaver are all perfect. Just amazing together. I'd consider it one of the best movies of the 80's, and even of all time.
Mike Nichols bounced right back to his brilliant directing best with this superb comedy drama which made Melanie Griffith a huge star. She arguably gives the best performance of her career as Tess, a secretary whose boss steals her ideas.
Her boss is brilliantly played by Sigourney Weaver who offers solid support to Griffith. However Griffith will take a huge chance when Weaver is taken ill, so in order to get revenge she pretends that she has her boss's job.
It's a very clever film in a way that does provide some good laughs and of course lots of good, messy hair. There is also decent support from Joan Cusack, Kevin Spacey and Harrison Ford.
Nichols' direction is solid and this is one film from the year of this release which I like a lot, particularly due to the excellent performances from Griffith and Weaver. It also proves that work that can be fun - you can have a lot of fun.