Hollywood has long been fascinated by larger-than-life business personae, as Matthew Pejkovic has documented in this series portrayals of business in cinema. Here he is, once again, to “Show us the movies!!!” — with a look at more business films relevant to the present day.
Working Girl (1988)
The romantic comedy version of Wall Street, with shoulder pads and power suits equalling slicked-back hair and Cuban cigars, Working Girl looked at female empowerment and classism in the corporate business world.
Melanie Griffith played Tess McGill, a working-class secretary in a Wall Street investment bank who earned a bachelor’s degree in Business by attending college at night. She has also come up with one hell of an idea for a business merger.
When she finds out her injured boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver) is planning to steal her merger deal and pass it off as her own, Tess uses Katherine’s absence and connections to put forward the deal herself, masquerading as a high-level exec since she knows no one will take a secretary from Staten Island seriously.
Although it seems like Hollywood drivel on the surface, the success of Working Girl is its realistic portrayal of how most people usually remain trapped in the socioeconomic strata in which they are born. In this case it is the blonde from Staten Island, with a “mind for business and a body for sin,” who has to lie in order to be noticed.
Most business films tend to feature male lead characters, yet Working Girl featured not one but two strong female characters, with Weaver countering Griffith with a bitchy turn sure to make many a viewer grind their teeth. Both women followed several female execs on their hectic daily schedules in New York City, sitting in on meetings and taking in life as a businesswoman in a male-dominated world.
Director Mike Nichols made a relevant picture about equality in the work place and expertly laced it with screwball elements. Take away the comedy and Working Girl could be hard-hitting stuff.
Working Girl Trailer
Matthew Pejkovic is a freelance film journalist located in Sydney. He writes for various print and online publications including FilmInk and The Retiree. He also runs his own website, Matt’s Movie Reviews.net and you can follow him on Twitter via @mpejko.