Nine to Five is set in the humdrum office building of Consolidated Companies, where the egotistical Franklin Hart, Jr. (Dabney Coleman) calls the shots. An opportunistic creep who routinely sizes down his female employees (“You’re a welcome addition to the company,” he tells a woman new to the office. “And a pretty one at that.”) and who routinely is willing to take credit for another person’s hard work, he seems to delight in making the lives of others miserable. He bans all the company’s personnel from so much as keeping a picture of a family member at their desk, for instance.
But three women in Nine to Five decide that they’ve had it, at least after a couple mix-ups lead them to that proclamation. One is Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), a wise-cracking supervisor with an enviable ability to see through the bullshit of her sexist superior. Another is secretary Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton, stunning in her film debut), who’s been deemed the office slut just because she’s Playboy beautiful. In actuality, she's hard-working and with a sound moral compass. And there’s Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), new to the company when the film opens, who is recently divorced and who is clumsy, hiding behind librarian glasses and grandma curls to prevent herself from sticking out.
A couple developments later, though, and the women go from office drones to friends to, unexpectedly, kidnappers. When Hart garners some damning information about them and decides blackmail is a great method to keep them weak in the knees, the pals thoughtlessly decide to hold Hart at gunpoint and take him as their hostage. Part of them knows this is an ill-judged move, but another part knows they’d rather meet their demises than see everything they’ve worked for destroyed by a man they cannot stand. Since Hart's wife is away on vacation, Violet, Doralee, and Judy are able to break into his country home and keep him locked up inside his bedroom, taking turns watching over him. All is enacted with a great deal of haste — disbelief mostly clouds the scenery.
But their worries regarding the end game diminish quickly: Luck, fortunately, seems to be on their side. As they panic about what they’re going to do to get themselves out of the mess, they discover that Hart may be an embezzler, and that they can use such knowledge as leverage. In the meantime, the women successfully take over their office building and prove to be better superiors than Hart ever was.
Though once Nine to Five treads into the kidnapping plot, which is straight out of a bonkers Ernst Lubitsch picture, it loses a lot of its zest. Preceding scenes are amusing but nonetheless plausible — we really feel as though we’re watching working women whose frustrations happen to have plenty of comedic promise.
But then the film stumbles into farcical territory, and is regularly too broad to stick. There's a trio of fantasy sequences that arrive somewhere near the film's middle, and are undoubtedly time-killers (all gratuitously showcase just how our leading ladies would get rid of Hart if they had the chance, though Parton's moment is pretty entertaining), and the movie becomes especially uneven once the Hart mansion mischief takes off and we're left rolling our eyes much more often than we're laughing.
But Nine to Five is so lovable that we don’t much dwell on what works and what doesn’t: We're always enjoying ourselves, even when the film's tonally teetering. The screenplay, by Colin Higgins and Patricia Resnick, churns out long and loud guffaws with dependability – the film is humorous in such a way that keeps us riding on a wave of jubilation even when we aren't necessarily slapping our knees. And the actresses, of course, are fantastic, not only having a sort of chemistry that makes us want to pal around with them, too, but also performing in an infectiously spirited manner that suggests they’re having as good a time as we are.
And as the last 37 years have shown, Nine to Five hasn’t lost an inch of its appeal. A television series and a 2009 play based upon it have prolonged its place in popular culture. The titular Dolly Parton theme became one of the biggest hits of her career, and the movie remains to be among Tomlin and Fonda's utmost commercial triumphs. And such is hardly a surprise: Like a cinematic comfort food easy to turn to when an injection of endorphins is needed, it’s hard to get enough of Nine to Five. Even when it's at its
1 Hr., 50 Mins.
Nine to Five August 28, 2017
he superlative workplace comedy Nine to Five (1980) is wonderfully sunny, one of those feel-good farces that results in us doing not much else besides grinning and laughing in response to all its cheeriness. It grabs hold of a twisted fantasy experienced by a plethora of everyday people (wanting to murder your boss) and turns such a daydream into a reality, albeit an energetic, winsomely comedic one.