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.