Tuesday, April 07, 2015
Directed by Mike Nichols and written by Kevin Wade, Working Girl is the story of a working-class secretary trying to make it in the world of Wall Street as she takes over for her new and injured boss in creating a merger between two companies. The film is an exploration of a simple woman from Staten Island who is trying to use her street smarts and determination to prove that she has what it takes to make things happen in the very tough world of Wall Street. Starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin, Oliver Platt, Nora Dunn, Olympia Dukakis, Kevin Spacey, and Philip Bosco. Working Girl is a heartfelt yet witty film from Mike Nichols.
Set in New York City, the film revolves around a secretary from Staten Island who takes the ferry by day to work as she hopes to rise through the top despite her lack of top school degrees and experience where she eventually works for a woman who is part of mergers and acquisition department in Wall Street. It’s a film that plays into a woman who may come from a working-class background as she manages to know more than those she work for as she would do whatever it takes to make it. Even as she would fill in for her boss who gets injured on a holiday where she would take matters into her own hands while falling for an executive involved with the merger. It plays into a woman trying to defy the odds on her own terms while trying to get some respect in a world that is quite cruel.
Kevin Wade’s screenplay portrays the protagonist Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) as this woman who goes to work as a secretary by day while going to night classes at night in the hopes of improving herself. Yet, she would endure some humiliating moments where she would get a job working for the financial executive Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) who would take Tess under her wing but also take Tess’ own ideas as her own in order to impress other bosses. Tess would find out when Katherine is injured during a vacation as she would get help from her friend Cynthia (Joan Cusack) to pretend to be an executive using just her knowledge of finances but also street smarts by reading newspaper and knowing people. That sense of determination would impress Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford) who doesn’t know that Tess is just a secretary but realizes that her unconventional methods to get things are useful.
Trainer is a man who comes from a more upper class background but he knows the value of hard work while he is also someone that is willing to take chances and wants to prove himself. He and Tess are something that Katherine isn’t as, despite her own wealthy background, someone who is willing to cheat and take credit for other people’s work so she can become powerful. Though Tess wants to succeed and do what Katherine does, she isn’t willing to cheat her way to the top as she wanted to prove that a girl from Staten Island can make it no matter what obstacles she faces. Even if she has to deal with criticism from the people at home who think she’ll never make it because of where she comes from.
Mike Nichols’ direction is very engaging for the way he portrays the world of Wall Street as he makes New York City and Staten Island as characters in the film to showcase a world where opportunities can happen. Much of Nichols’ compositions are quite simple as he does create some effective wide shots of New York City including shots of the ferry as it plays an important part to the story. There’s also some unique close-ups that play into Tess’ struggle such a scene where she is pushing a tray of dumplings for an office party that Katherine is hosting. It showcases how powerful Katherine is and how she’s trying to use Tess for her own gain. Nichols also knows how to frame actors for scenes that are either comical or dramatic as he always shoot scenes inside a ferry to play into Tess’ struggle and her willingness to make it.
Some of the humorous moments are very natural as it relates to Trainer’s awkwardness into situations that only Tess knows how to navigate. Most notably a wedding where Trainer and Tess have to meet a potential client in Oren Trask (Philip Bosco) who would be impressed by the two. Nichols’ mastery at comedy adds to the energy of the film where it showcases some of Tess’ bad decisions such as her first meeting with Trainer as she had took a valium and mixing it with alcohol proves to be a very bad idea. Yet, Nichols still puts in some heart and characters that audiences can root for while giving them a chance to showcase that unforgiving world of Wall Street. Overall, Nichols create a captivating yet funny film about a woman from Staten Island working her ass off in Wall Street.
Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the naturalistic look of the daytime exteriors to some low-key scenes set at night in the interiors along with some elaborate lighting for a few scenes in Katherine‘s apartment. Editor Sam O’Steen does nice work with the editing as it‘s quite straightforward while going for some offbeat rhythms for some of the film‘s funnier moments. Production designer Patrizia von Brandenstein, with set decorator George DeTitta Jr. and art director Doug Kraner, does fantastic work with the look of some of the offices as well as the big one that Trainer has as well as the apartments that he and Katherine lives in. Costume designer Ann Roth does terrific work with the costumes from the clothes the secretary wears to the posh stuff that Katherine wears that Tess would later borrow.
Hair stylists Angela D’Angelo and J. Roy Helland do amazing work with the design of the hair which was the thing in the late 1980s as women had big hair. Sound editor Stan Bochner does superb work with the sound from the way some of the offices sound during stock exchanges and such as well as a few moments at a few parties. The film’s music consists largely of score music by Rob Mounsey which is really just piano and orchestral variations of Carly Simon’s original song Let the River Run which is the film’s main theme as other music includes cuts by the Pointer Sisters, Sonny Rollins, and Chris De Burgh.
The casting by Juliet Taylor is brilliant as it features notable small appearances from David Duchovny as a party guest for Tess’ surprise party, Zach Grenier as an executive at Katherine’s office party, Robert Easton as a top corporate CEO in Armbrister, Amy Aquino as a secretary late in the film, Ricki Lake as a bridesmaid at the party Tess and Trainer crash at, Elizabeth Whitcraft as a woman Tess’ boyfriend Mick was sleeping with, Nora Dunn as a corporate publicist named Ginny, James Lally as one of Tess’ early bosses in Turkell, Oliver Platt as another of Tess’ early boss in David Lutz who treats her like meat, Olympia Dukakis as a personnel director who would find Tess a new job working for Katherine, and Kevin Spacey in an early film performance as a sleazy corporate executive who tries to seduce Tess. Philip Bosco is excellent as Oren Trask as this business magnate that Tess and Trainer want to make a deal with as Tess has a tip about what he wants to do. Alec Baldwin is superb as Mick as Tess’ boyfriend who is trying to support her but he gets into some trouble as he is unsure if he can be good enough for Tess.
Joan Cusack is fantastic as Cynthia as another woman from Staten Island who isn’t ambitious as Tess but aids her by pretending to be her secretary at one point and be the conscious of sorts for her. Sigourney Weaver is amazing as Katherine Parker as this very sly and cunning financial executive who likes to do whatever it takes to get to the top as well as steal ideas from others while making Tess feel she’s important yet treating her like shit. Harrison Ford is phenomenal as Jack Trainer as a corporate executive who is trying to get the deal made as Ford brings some charm and humor to his performance while being the guy who knows Tess has what it takes to get things done. Finally, there’s Melanie Griffith in a remarkable performance as Tess McGill as this young woman from Staten Island who has the drive and determination to be successful as Griffith displays a performance that is filled with humor and vulnerability as it’s Griffith presenting a character everyone can root for.
Working Girl is an incredible film from Mike Nichols that features an exhilarating performance from Melanie Griffith. Along with a great ensemble cast that includes Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Cusack, Alec Baldwin, and Philip Bosco. The film isn’t just one of Nichols’ finest films but a film where it bring enough laughs and heart that allows audience to be engaged by. In the end, Working Girl is a spectacular film from Mike Nichols.
Mike Nichols Films: (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) - (The Graduate) - (Catch-22) - Carnal Knowlege - (The Day of the Dolphin) - (The Fortune) - (Gilda Live) - (Silkwood) - (Heartburn) - (Biloxi Blues) - Postcards from the Edge - (Regarding Henry) - (Wolf (1994 film)) - The Birdcage - (Primary Colors) - (What Planet Are You From?) - (Wit) - (Angels in America) - Closer - (Charlie Wilson’s War)
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