NINE TO FIVE
Reviewed by Sarah Craig
(GAY LIFE - Chicago)
Good news, ladies and gentlemen! Here are glad
tidings from (of all places) Hollywood: Good politics
CAN make good art.
The movie in question is Nine to Five, a light
comedy with a heavy message that stars the unlikely
trio of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton.
Each plays a very different type of woman in Nine to
Five, but each makes her statement about the everyday
oppression of women and minorities in the workplace.
However, screenwriter Patricia Resnick never lets
Nine to Five become dour or preachy. In fact, this
movie is one of the funniest presented in a long,
The plot is (almost) pure fantasy. Fonda is a
recently-divorced woman coming into the workforce
for the first time in her life. Tomlin has twelve
long years with the company under her belt, and is
a competent, ambitious careerwoman. Parton's character is somewhere in the middle: she's a secretary,
and works because she needs the money, but she's certainly good at her job. She doesn't enjoy the constant sexual pressure she gets from her slimy, sexist,
obnoxious, conniving boss.
The Boss, played by Dabney Coleman, who portrayed
the mayor of Mary Hartman's home town, is an amalgama-
tion of all the rotten bosses in the world. He orders
Lily Tomlin around as though she were his maidservant,
even though she trained him and made it possible for
him to get his current job. He fires people for no
good reason; he clamps down on any expressions of
individuality in the workplace to the point where a
coffeecup on a desk is grounds for dismissal. He's
a cheat, a flirt, he hates everyone, and he wants to
rule his employees with an iron hand.
In addition to all that, he is King Chauvinist
of all time. Feminists may dislike him for his sexism
alone, but everyone in the audience can find something
about him that's obnoxious. He's an equal-opportunity
When he pulls three major power-stunts in one
afternoon, he succeeds in enraging Fonda, Tomlin, and
Parton. Their separate miseries bring them together,
and they fantasize over a joint of "Maui Zowie,"
supplied by Lily Tomlin's son, about how they'd like
to wipe this sleazy operator off the face of planet
The fantasy sequences are a comedy riot. To see
Lily Tomlin dressed up as Cinderella, singing a happy
little song to Walt Disney-type bluebirds as she stirs
a poison potion into his■ coffee, is worth the/price.of
admission by itself. Add the priceless vision of
Dolly Parton roping and tying him as if he were a
rodeo hog, and there is no way to suppress the laughter.
Some have criticized Jane Fonda for playing a
"weak sister" character; but, if the role she chose
is a reticent, civilized, tasteful woman, should
Fonda play that character as a bold, commanding
Amazon? It's to Fonda's credit that she plays a
"tasteful lady" and pulls it off. To remake the
character for the sake of Fonda's own personality
would be grandstanding and a betrayal of the script.
Anyway, she does get to be an "Amazon" in her fantasy sequence.
Fonda is an excellent actor, and wine to Five
merely underlines that fact.
Lily Tomlin's comic genius is once again demonstrated in this movie. After the dismal Moment by
Moment, it's good to see Tomlin back and succeeding
at what she does best. If she wants to try dramatic
roles again, "more power to her," but let her choose
her vehicles more carefully.
Dolly Parton, to the surprise of many, is quite
a capable thespian. Certainly the sincerity and depth
of emotion she conveys in many of her songs should
have given the skeptics a clue as to her ability; but
her part in Nine to Five will delight even her detractors. Her fans, of course, will be doubly thrilled.
Since this is a fantasy, the good "guys" win in
the end ( in real life, no such things could ever happen) and the evil boss is abducted by a band of avenging Amazons. With a little suspension of disbelief,
however, wine to Five ranks as one of the top comedies
of the year.
Liberated women, of course, will take great delight
in this movie, but that's no reason for men to stay at
home. The anti-sexist message is loud and clear, but
the moral of the story never obliterates the pure
enjoyment of the story itself, wine to Five comes
heartily recommended as entertainment as well as politics. Even the most macho leatherman in town has
got to guffaw when he sees the harness the obnoxious
boss gets tied up in.
Nine to Five is a thoroughly enjoyable movie for
everyone. Yes, Virginia - good politics can make good
WJWS TO FIVE: story by Patricia Resnick. Screenplay
by Colin Higgins and Patricia Resnick. Directed by
Colin Higgins. Now playing in Austin at the Fox
Triplex and Lakehills cinema.