- Melanie Griffith as Tess McGill
- Harrison Ford as Jack Trainer
- Sigourney Weaver as Katharine Parker
- Joan Cusack as Cynthia
- Alec Baldwin as Mick
- Oliver Platt as David Lutz
- Kevin Spacey as Bob Speck
Working Girl is an effervescent and feel good comedy from Mike Nichols, that satirizes the corporate business world and conveys a woman grabbing the opportunity to make something of herself. Light and funny yet also intelligent, this combination, when aided by a very accomplished cast ensures Working Girl is a triumph.
Having just turned 30, Staten Island raised secretary for a stockbroker Tess McGill wishes for something more and wants a job of an executive nature. Sadly, no matter how hard she strives, nothing much seems to come of her diligence. And after a run in with her boss, she is reassigned to a financial firm. She is to be the secretary for Katharine Parker; a seemingly affable and powerful woman who appears to take Tess under her wing and encourages her to pitch ideas. Tess comes up with a pretty neat idea for a lucrative merger that she passes by Katharine, but nothing seems to come of it. Then Katharine is injured during a skiing trip in Europe, which enables Tess to look after business while she recovers. It is here that Tess discovers that Katharine was about to go forward with her idea, without giving her any credit. But two can play at that game and Tess decides that is she wants to make her name for herself, she must take action. And action is what she takes, by styling herself into the persona of a higher executive. Though a risky move, her smarts and innate mind for business make up her artillery as she mounts her idea to a potential merger. Along the way, she enlists the help of the handsome executive Jack Trainer, who could be very handy in aiding her business plans. The thing is Jack believes that Tess is someone higher up in the job than what she is because she is so convincing with the ins and outs of making deals, and Tess manages to keep her proper status this under wraps though. Along the way, Tess and Jack develop romantic feelings for the other. Tess finds herself on the cusp of closing this deal and winning Jack, but a spanner is put in the works with the return of conniving Katharine.
Mike Nichols has always been a director who I admire, mainly for his perceptive probing of people and his approach to the characters. He infuses Working Girl with a funny surface that chimes well with the personable elements of the story, but like always, he cuts a bit deeper and has a ball dissecting big business in New York and the often ruthless tactics employed in it. Nichols work has a crisp and unobtrusive approach to it, knowing exactly when to use the camera for something different and when to just let things flow effortlessly. A stellar example of his craftsmanship is the opening that circles the Statue of Liberty while following Tess on her journey into the concrete jungle, the feeling of enormity and big dreams is very strong here. You get the best of both worlds with Mike Nichols in the director’s chair; on one hand there is the self-made Cinderella story with oodles of 80’s style and then a witty examination of someone striving to make it big in a cutthroat world of sharks. There are those who will view Working Girl with cynicism for its feel good overtones, mainly stemming from the idea that someone can succeed in this kind of world with simply pluck and intelligence( which I could understand, but don’t think it detracts from the enjoyment of it.) But to think of the film purely like that is to miss the rousing and inspiring nature of it, which will win over even the most dejected and grumpy person, as underdog Tess takes destiny and shapes it for herself. You seriously will find it hard not to laugh, due to the sparkling dialogue from Kevin Wade and screwball tropes that are updated to a world of shoulder pads and big hair, befitting of the 80’s colour and atmosphere. And the romance in the film is thankfully something that doesn’t descend into ridiculousness that could have seriously dragged the film down. In actual fact, it extended the enjoyable factor watching Tess and Jack put their heads together and slowly fall for the other, in a dazzling mix of business and pleasure. Add in parts of significant tension, that can be found as the identity of Tess is frequently nearly revealed, Working Girl is a pleasing winner. Only that it is a tad overlong is an extremely minor blemish on a delightfully mounted and performed comedy that nary puts a foot wrong. Lashings of 80’s glamour cover Working Girl and while it’s easy to scoff at some of the outfits, they actually make a good representation of how clothing makes the person which is something Tess knows all about once her Pygmalion style transformation starts. And no discussion of the film would be worth reading without mentioning the music. Largely based around the rousing Carly Simon song ‘Let the River Run’, the music sweeps you up and brings the feel good to the film in large quantities.
Melanie Griffith is inspired casting for Tess; her airy voice and expressive eyes used perfectly to imbue the part with a strength and occasional vulnerability. Griffith triumphs at making Tess a go-getter who isn’t going to just fall by the wayside and takes events, with a little subterfuge, into her hands and puts her business acumen to good use. You root for the character in her search for something worthwhile and you feel her plucky personality emerge through Griffith’s subtle yet endearing interpretation of the part. And seriously, everyone has to agree that Melanie Griffith looks adorable in this film, right? Harrison Ford contributes an affable and low-key performance as the often bewildered but honest executive, who unwittingly becomes the object of affection for both of the main ladies. Ford is a natural with light comedy and his facial expressions and awkwardness induce many laughs, plus his chemistry with both women is excellent. A tremendous supporting turn from Sigourney Weaver is also worthy of note. Playing the high-powered bitch, Weaver imbues the part with a sly charisma that sucks others in and belies her larcenous and greedy tendencies. Fabulous is the best word to describe Sigourney Weaver here, and even though she is wicked, she makes it looks so devilishly fun through her entertaining portrayal of a grinning shark in a corporate capacity with the shoulder pads to match. Joan Cusack provides countless laughs and wisecracks as the wildly dressed best friend, with nowhere near as much ambition as Tess but a supportive enough outlook for advice and salt of the Earth friendship. Alec Baldwin is here as the ne’er-do-well boyfriend who may be a hunk initially in the eyes of Tess( I mean, does this guy actually own a shirt?) but is a philanderer to put it lightly. In small appearances early in their careers, Oliver Platt and Kevin Spacey catch the eye as a pair of downright sleazy guys.
Sparkling, romantic and amusing, the executive suite comedy of Working Girl makes it a ticket to success and enjoyment from the fantastic Mike Nichols and his cast.