9 to 5

But what if the sexist is hot?
Colin Higgins
Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman
The Setup: 
Three women scheme to get back at their chauvinist boss.

My friend and I had both seen this several times in the theater. I hadn’t seen it since, and so it seemed like a good choice for movie night. We begin with a montage of the office workforce on the street, with special attention to women and their travails. Then we shift to Jane Fonda as Judy, arriving for her first day at this office. She is just getting divorced and has never worked before. She is introduced around by Lily Tomlin as Violet, who is harried and broken down by the office routine, and the fact that she’s worked there twelve years and seen many people—including her boss—Mr. Hart, be promoted over her.

Mr. Hart is played by Dabney Coleman, who may be the ideal late 70s corporate sleazy scumbag. Upon re-seeing this, a crucial piece in the puzzle of where my sexual tastes came from snapped firmly into place. We introduce him and also continue exposition of the sexism of the 1980 business world as he compliments Judy on her looks and casually remarks “You should see some of the crones that come through here.” Hart orders Violet to buy a scarf for his wife, and when she protests, impugns her “teamwork.” Then there’s a funny scene where Hart pretends to drop pens so he can look down Dolly Parton as Doralee’s dress, and relentlessly comes on to her, eventually giving her the scarf that Violet bought, and cinching in Violet’s mind that Doralee is sleeping with Hart.

There’s a scene with Judy trying to run the copy machine as it goes out of control [sort of a replay of the I Love Lucy routine with the candies or whatever those things were] but it ends well with Hart giving Judy a stern dressing down that reduces her to tears. It’s good, because up until then, Hart has been sort of a charming scoundrel, and this is the first glimmers we get of the real damage he causes. A second later he is passing off Violet’s idea as his own. Violet is hanging on for a promotion to management she is expecting to get, but the next day finds that it has been given to a man—whom she trained. She storms out and goes drinking. During the ruckus, she revealed that Hart has been telling everyone that he and Doralee are sleeping together, and she storms out. I forget why Judy leaves, but eventually they’re all in the bar.

Violet remembers a joint she had in her purse from earlier, and they go back to Doralee’s house to smoke it. They all get stoned and we have their three fantasy sequences of how they’d like to get back at Hart; Judy is a hunter who shoots him down, Doralee is a female chauvinist who ends up hog-tying him, and Violet is a sort of Snow White type [hilarious] who puts rat poison in his coffee. The next day Violet accidentally DOES put rat poison in his coffee, but unbeknownst to her, he doesn’t drink it. He slips and bangs his head, spilling the coffee, and is taken to the hospital. Violet discovers the poison and freaks out, gathering the two other women to go to the hospital. The whole sequence there and as they are driving around afterward is the highlight of the movie, with a number of misunderstandings and mistakes that draw out the comedy endlessly, but in very clever ways that actually fit together and make sense. Also note that all of the women end up enacting their fantasy in real life: Violet poisons Hart, Doralee does hog-tie him and Judy shoots at him.

They end up keeping him prisoner, while they start to run the office themselves. Toward the end of the movie the women put in place a bunch of their own initiatives, such as flexible hours and a day-care center, and it makes it’s point, although at the expense of the movie becoming a little bit preachy. But you know, by that time you really don’t mind. The ending is clever and satisfying and wraps things up in an unexpected way.

It was good. It was much more clever than I remembered, and I was very impressed with how all the misunderstandings worked well and seemed organic to the plot, without forcing them or betraying any of the characters. The characters are all relatively deep, one appreciates the time the film takes to show relatively inconsequential scenes that show how lonely Doralee is at the office and Judy's ex-husband, who wants to come back now that his young secretary seemed unsuitable. This is definitely a feminist film with a very clear point, but it doesn't grate the way it could because the whole thing is handled with such humor and the appealing characters. On top of all that, this is just such a wonderful time capsule of everything that is 1980, it really must be witnessed.

Should you watch it: 

Yes! This is a classic comedy of an earlier day!