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Working Girl (1988)

aka Working Girl

"For anyone who's ever won. For anyone who's ever lost. And for everyone who's still in there trying."

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 115 mins · English · R (USA)

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Still relevant today for its social commentary.

Although Working Girl is almost 30 years old, the Mike Nichols film about getting ahead in business feels surprisingly relevant today. In the movie, workplace sexism is more overt than it is now, but modern women still struggle for equal pay and treatment in their careers. They face the same issue as the film's protagonist Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith); they work hard and do all the right things without getting ahead or without getting nearly as far as their male colleagues. That's why Working Girl's main message remains important today. Sometimes you need to bend the rules to get ahead and you need to take chances, just like Tess. By taking advantage of her boss Katharine Parker's (Sigourney Weaver) absence and brokering a deal with Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), Tess proves that she had a mind for business and that she deserves better things than working as an assistant. Her rise to power is inspirational too because in arranging the deal, she shows how her street sm...(more)

Although Working Girl is almost 30 years old, the Mike Nichols film about getting ahead in business feels surprisingly relevant today. In the movie, workplace sexism is more overt than it is now, but modern women still struggle for equal pay and treatment in their careers. They face the same issue as the film's protagonist Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith); they work hard and do all the right things without getting ahead or without getting nearly as far as their male colleagues. That's why Working Girl's main message remains important today. Sometimes you need to bend the rules to get ahead and you need to take chances, just like Tess. By taking advantage of her boss Katharine Parker's (Sigourney Weaver) absence and brokering a deal with Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), Tess proves that she had a mind for business and that she deserves better things than working as an assistant. Her rise to power is inspirational too because in arranging the deal, she shows how her street smarts and intuition led her to key insights that benefit her client, Trask Industries. She proves that you don’t need an ivy league education or good connection to succeed, you need to be observant and read between the lines, so when the right opportunity comes along, you know how to capitalize on it.

Working Girl isn’t just a great film for its commentary on women in the workplace though. It’s also fantastic for how it honestly conveys the messiness of relationships and how imperfect we all are as human beings in our interactions with one another. Everything about the romantic and platonic relationships feels totally genuine thanks to the direction of Mike Nichols. He coaxes excellent performances out of his actors and knows just how to evoke powerful emotions from his blocking and camera placement. The scene where Trainer answers the phone while he’s in bed with Tess is particularly heartbreaking, since you can see her expression change from happiness to disappointment as she realizes that he’s on the phone with another woman. It’s these kinds of moments that transform Working Girl from mere social commentary into a story that’s incredibly relatable. (less)

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Cast:

Small Tess McGill
Small Jack Trainer
Small Katharine Parker
Small Mick Dugan
Small Cyn
No_movie_poster Oren Trask
Small Ginny
Small Lutz
No_movie_poster Turkel
Small Bob Speck
No_movie_poster Armbriester
Small Personnel Director
Small Tess's Birthday Party Friend
No_movie_poster Tess' Secretary
No_movie_poster Armbrister
Small Tim Rourke
No_movie_poster Doreen DiMucci

Crew:

No_movie_poster Douglas Wick Producer
No_movie_poster Juliet Taylor Casting
No_movie_poster Robert Greenhut Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Michael Ballhaus Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Kevin Wade Screenplay
No_movie_poster Mike Nichols Director
No_movie_poster Ann Roth Costume Design
No_movie_poster Patrizia von Brandenstein Set Designer
No_movie_poster Laurence Mark Executive Producer
No_movie_poster Sam O'Steen Editor
No_movie_poster George DeTitta Jr. Set Decoration
No_movie_poster Doug Kraner Art Direction
No_movie_poster Joseph A. Campayno Makeup Artist
No_movie_poster Alan D'Angerio Hairstylist
No_movie_poster J. Roy Helland Hairstylist
No_movie_poster Francesca Paris Hairstylist

Taglines:

"For anyone who's ever won. For anyone who's ever lost. And for everyone who's still in there trying."

Plot:

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is a working-class stockbroker's secretary from Staten Island with a bachelor's degree in Business from evening classes. She dreams of an executive position. Tricked by her boss (Oliver Platt) into a date with his lascivious colleague (Kevin Spacey), she gets into trouble by publicly insulting him and is reassigned as secretary to a new financial executive, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Seemingly supportive, Katharine encourages Tess to share ideas. Tess suggests that a client, Trask Industries, should invest in radio to gain a foothold in media. Katharine listens to the idea and says she'll pass it through some people. Later, she says the idea wasn't well received. But when Katharine breaks her leg skiing in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit and Tess discovers she plans to pass off the idea as her own. At home, Tess finds her boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman. Disillusioned, she returns to Katharine's apartment and begins her transformation.


Tess sets up a meeting with executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), using her boss's name as an entrée. She wants to see Trainer the evening before the meeting at a party which she will attend in a dress of Katharine's. Before the party her friend Cynthia (Joan Cusack) gives her a valium from Katharine's bathroom when Tess suffers a panic attack. At the party, Tess unknowingly meets Jack, who is fascinated by her. They have a couple of drinks and the combined effect of valium and alcohol lead to her waking next morning in Jack's bed. She leaves before he wakes and, entering the meeting, realizes Jack Trainer is the man she spent the night with. She feels the pitch goes badly. Back at her desk, she is mortified about the night before but Jack comes in and says they are happy with Tess's idea. Days later, Tess and Jack gatecrash Trask's (Philip Bosco) daughter’s (Barbara Garrick) wedding and pitch their plan. Trask is interested and a meeting is set up. Later Tess and Jack end up in bed together. Tess wants to explain her true situation but keeps quiet after learning Jack has been in a relationship with Katharine, which he says is all but over.


Katharine comes home on the day of the meeting with Trask. Tess overhears Katharine asking Jack to confirm his love for her, but he avoids answering and hurries out. Tess also rushes off, leaving her diary, which Katharine reads. The meeting goes well until Katharine storms in, accusing Tess, a mere secretary, of stealing her idea. Tess protests but leaves, apologizing. Days later, Tess is clearing out her desk when someone bumps into her, spilling all her notes and supplies on the floor. While picking them up in front of the elevator, Jack, Katharine, and Trask arrive. Tess confronts Katharine and starts to tell her side of the story. Katharine tries to lead the group away, but Jack says he believes Tess. When Trask hears a convincing tidbit, he hops off the closing elevator with Katharine and onto an elevator with Jack and Tess. They then convince Trask that the move into radio was Tess's idea, showing him materials. Trask confronts Katharine, asking her how she came up with the idea. She stumbles and is fired. Trask offers Tess an "entry-level" job with his company.


Tess starts her new job, armed with a lunchbox prepared by Jack. Directed to an office, she sees a woman on the phone, assumes she is her new boss and seats herself in the typing pool. The woman (Amy Aquino) reveals she is, in fact, Tess’s secretary. Tess insists they work together as colleagues, showing she will be very different than Katharine. She then calls Cynthia from her office overlooking Manhattan to say she's landed her dream job.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2001-04-17