Working Girl (1988) Snapshot Review

working girl 1988

Working Girl (1988)
Director: Mike Nichols
Writer: Kevin Wade
Starring: Melanie Griffiths, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Alec Baldwin, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt, Kevin Spacey, Olympia Dukakis

Working Girl proves that a simple plot can be transformed with a star-studded cast, and reminds us that rom-coms can be a backdrop to an empowering female narrative.

Down on her luck Tess McGill (Griffiths) is struggling to find success in a man’s world when, in just 48 hours, she transforms from unemployed Staten Island singleton to a Wall Street wonder thanks to her feisty new female boss Karen (Weaver). Tess decides to steal her boss’s identity upon discovering Karen is stealing her ideas, thus entering a desperate scramble to shatter the glass ceiling.

Melanie Griffiths shines in this corporate fairytale about trading shares and sharing success, as she embarks on a journey of personal discovery. This unconventional (for its time) rom-com not only begins with the disintegration of her relationship with boyfriend (Baldwin), but then focuses on her ascension as the she-wolf of Wall Street – leaving any romance with Harrison Ford firmly within the subplot.

Joan Cusack may have returned in her all-too-familiar ‘best friend’ role, but she is a worthy advisory to stand beside Griffiths and Weaver, acting as the perfectly timed hysterical voice of reason. I would argue that this film could have been given an entirely different dimension had Cusack been given a bigger part to play.

Working Girl has aged surprisingly and regrettably well. The Guardian recently reported that FTSE firms admitted restricting female board members for multiple ridiculous reasons – the message that Tess McGill sends out 29 years ago is still relevant, and ironically ends with a room of men making a decision.

Don’t be fooled by the serious undertones as Griffiths’ unpredictable and feisty nature gives the film a punch, while Cusack’s cutting one-liners give her character more volume than her cliche mullet. With more feel good vibes than you can shake a stick at, this movie delivers on every possible emotional level even with the shackles of its genre weighing heavily upon it.


Elizabeth Howlett

Multi-platform journalist and film psychoanalyst who loves 80s films, but doesn’t think much of John Hughes. Horror and fantasy theory is her jam and she can quote anything at the drop of a hat. Her brain holds more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at and she hums the theme to Jurassic Park without realising. Heir to the throne and rightful queen of puns – you owe her your allegiance.
Elizabeth Howlett