By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: She’s moving on up.
Tess (Melanie Griffith) is a 30-year-old secretary working at an acquisition and investment firm on Wall Street and looking to move her way up. She comes up with an investment strategy for one of the company’s clients and passes the idea off to her boss Katherine (Sigourney Weaver) who says she’ll run the idea by some of her superiors. A few days later Katherine tells Tess that her idea was not well received and then Katherine goes on a skiing trip and breaks her leg. In her absence Tess looks after Katherine’s house and finds a memo on Katherine’s home computer were she tries to make Tess’s investment idea seem like her own. Tess decides to get her revenge by pretending to have more authority than she does and going directly to the client with her idea. In the process she meets fellow executive Jack (Harrison Ford) who helps her with her ploy while also starting up a romance with her.
The movie starts out well creating a believable office atmosphere that nicely balances the humor that keeps everything on a realistic believable level. Too many times office comedies have characterizations that are too broad, which thankfully is not the case here. The romance between Jack and Tess is not forced and the sparkle they share seems real and does not bog down the story like in certain films, but instead helps compel it.
Unfortunately the second half falls too much into the same old formula. The climatic showdown is protracted and contrived. Certain twists are thrown in that instead of making the story more interesting helps only to make it less believable. The wrap-up is too neat and tidy as well as having a Frank Capraesque quality that get poured on too strong ultimately making this film despite its good start fluffy and superficial.
Griffith does well in the lead. She plays a character that is relatable and likable although I did feel that she becomes discouraged a little too easily. I also didn’t like the way that she goes back to her boyfriend Mick (Alec Baldwin) even after she caught him cheating on her, which to me seemed to make her weak. Although the film features a plethora of women with the puffy 80’s hairstyle (for some reason you will probably see more of that hairstyle here than in just about any other 80’s movie) I felt it looked great on her. The scene where she is walking down the street after she has it cut short and wave put in it makes her look almost exactly like her mother Tippi Hedren in The Birds.
Ford is again impressive while he takes a role that tests his acting range and on-screen persona. Instead of being the dominating self-assured character that he usually is he instead is more pensive and subdued while letting the women around dominate the proceedings. He is also quite amusing. The scene where he warns Tess about his potentially messy apartment is funny as is the part where he puts on a new dress shirt while still in his office. However, his best moment comes with the amusing way he gets himself out of a jam when he is caught going to the bathroom while inside the stall of a ladies restroom.
Baldwin is perfect as the no-good boyfriend. He looks downright boyish here almost like he is barely out of puberty. He also gets the film’s best line, which occurs when Tess walks in on him in bed with a naked woman on top of him and he states “This is not what it looks like.”
The only performance that I did have a problem with was Joan Cusack as Tess’s friend Cyn. Her Brooklyn accent is much too heavy and her puffy hairstyle looks larger than her entire head. Her eye shadow gives her almost a clown-like appearance and whether she was intended for comic-relief or not nothing she says is funny.
Carly Simon scores with her rousing theme ‘Let the River Run’, which won the Academy Award. The aerial shot of the Statue of Liberty that is shown at the beginning as well as the Manhatten skyline captured during the closing credits ties in nicely with Carly’s vocals.
The twist which comes during the second half where it is found that Jack is secretly seeing Katherine as his girlfriend was too much of a coincidence that did not make the story more interesting. There is clearly no chemistry between Katherine and Jack in their scene together and it is the one spot in the film where things get overblown. It also makes Weaver’s character needlessly campy and deluded. Having Tess accidently drop her day planner literally at Katherine’s feet, which is where she finds out about Tess’s involvement with Jack is way, way, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too convenient and a serious sign of weak and uninspired writing on behalf of screenwriter Kevin Wade.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: December 21, 1988
Runtime: 1Hour 53Minutes
Director: Mike Nichols
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video
Enjoyable working girl fantasy has charm.