Film Reviews

Dolly Month: 9 to 5 (1980)

Starring: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman

Director: Colin Higgins

Judy (Fonda) is a nervous woman returning to the workplace after her husband has left her. Violet (Tomlin) is the cynical working girl who keeps getting passed over for promotion, even though she practically runs the company. And Doralee (Parton) is the bosses secretary, who he’s told everyone he’s sleeping with, who just wants to do her job and have some respect. When the three find unlikely allies in each other, they team together to get their own back on their terrible boss, but when they go too far and end up kidnapping him, they run the department in his stead and productivity goes way up.

This was Dolly’s first foray into movies and her character was largely designed so she could play herself, but that said she really is a natural. In interviews, she spoke about how much she enjoyed making this film and working with Fonda and Tomlinson, who happily took her under their wing.

Watching this film again, it strikes me how bold this film feels. Made at the height of the Women’s Movement and Feminism, it really doesn’t hold back, and isn’t scared to be a little in your face about women and how they’re treated in the workplace. It feels like a film worth watching now, but also that probably wouldn’t get greenlit today.

But politics aside, all the leads are really strong. Fonda feels fragile and believable as she tries to fit into her new life as a single woman and a person trying to fit into a new workplace. I love the scene where she tries to use the photocopier and it starts going crazy. The way her face crumples, and man, I can relate to the exact same feeling. Tomlinson is tougher, but her sense of comic timing and sarcasm is so so good. And Dolly is sweet to everyone, but is shunned because people think she’s using sex to get ahead, which I’m sure so many women can relate to. I love how they take control. They are all three heart felt and hilarious, and have great chemistry, and the script gives them great one liners and situations where they really get to shine.

The film also has a lot of style, with little flights into the imaginations of the three women, showing how they see things or what they imagine they would like to see done to their bigoted, chauvinistic boss. It gives the film a sense of the ridiculous and also puts on the big screen what I’m sure a lot of workers have fantasised about doing…

I love the 80’s workplace fashion in this film. I really want to get glasses like Jane Fonda’s character and some midi skirts immediately. It’s a really entertaining film where the female characters work together and get things done. And I think it’s almost as relevant today as it was when it came out.

See It If: you’ve ever had a crappy boss or had someone in your workplace call you sweetheart. A really funny film with wonderful leads.


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