Nine to Five review by Mike Long

There are plenty of historical dramas which recreate certain periods in history. The makers of these movies are able to research a particular time period and attempt to be faithful to it. On the other hand, there are few films which are able to capture a moment in time. These films are meant as contemporary pieces, but they create a portrait of a particular generation. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Women's Liberation and the feminist movement had led to more women in the workplace, and the 1980 film Nine to Five is a snapshot of that era.

Nine to Five (AKA 9 to 5) is set at a firm called Consolidated Companies Inc.. There we meet Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), a senior worker who can't get a promotion; Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), a newly-divorced woman who is entering the workforce for the first time; and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton), the boss' secretary who doesn't understand why no one likes her. These three women work in an office for Franklin Hart (Dabney Coleman), who is, to quote the film, a sexist egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot. Hart lords over his employees, treating them poorly and stealing their ideas. He undermines Violet, insults Judy, and sexually harasses Doralee. The three ladies become friends and scheme to stop their common enemy. Their fantasies become a reality when they are forced to confront Hart and a battle of wits and will ensues.

Much of Nine to Five feels very dated today. Obviously the clothes are dated, and the office equipment in the film will look positively ancient to any viewer under the age of 20. However, the movie still works for one simple reason: there are still plenty of people around today who hate their jobs, and more importantly, hate their bosses. The movie is funny and well-made (more on that in a moment), but the main reason that Nine to Five was a hit was that it tapped into an idea that millions of Americans could relate to. Despite the fact that the movie is about women in the workplace (again, a hot topic at the time), members of both genders could relate to the characters as they related to the awful behavior of Mr. Hart. Nine to Five is the spiritual precursors to things such as Office Space and Dilbert, as the idea of a boss who is more incompetent than their employees is nothing new.

Nine to Five also works today because it's simply a well-made movie. Writer/director Colin Higgins had written Harold and Maude and Silver Streak, and written and directed Foul Play, so he knew his way around comedy. The jokes in the film range from very broad (Judy's fight with the Xerox machine) to very subtle (Violet's comment about Judy's hat is truly a classic). Higgins also proved that he wasn't afraid to take chances, as the scenes in which the women fantasize about how they would kill Mr. Hart are truly creative. These scenes are a bit out there for a mainstream comedy, but they are perfectly integrated into the movie, and thus are very acceptable. The great cast also bolsters the film. Fonda, known for serious or sexy roles, shows her range here as the frumpy and uptight Judy. Of course, Dabney Coleman steals the show as the despicable Mr. Hart. But, its Dolly Parton, appearing here in her first film, who is the biggest surprise of the movie.

While Nine to Five still works today, the movie isnt perfect. The third act is very hard to swallow and while the film is close to 2 hours long, the ending feels rushed. Still, the movie can easily be considered a classic and is the rare movie which is just as relevant today as it was upon its initial release.

Nine to Five gets to work on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate editions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. For a 25 year old film, this transfer looks good. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a small amount of grain at times. There are some very minor defects from the source material here, otherwise its clear that a well-preserved or nicely restored print was used for the transfer. The DVD features a Dolby stereo audio track, as well as the original mono track for you purists. The stereo track sounds fine, as it offers clear dialogue and sound effects, especially in the office and fantasy scenes. The music sounds good, most notably Dolly Partons smash theme song.

This new special edition DVD of Nine to Five contains several extras. We start with an audio commentary featuring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and producer Bruce Gilbert. This is an entertaining track, as the quartet reminisces about the film, but they often try to talk over one another, which is annoying. Parton proves to have a great sense of humor here. Nine @ 25 Overview (25 minutes) is a weak retrospective featurette, which features nice comments from Fonda, Tomlin, Parton, and Gilbert, but way too many clips. I did just watch the movie. The same goes for Remembering Colin Higgins (5 minutes). This tribute to the late director has some nice moments, but too many clips. The 10 Deleted Scenes (which run 11 1/2 minutes) are probably the best extras here, as they feature some interesting (although not new or groundbreaking) moments cut from the film. The extras are rounded out by a Gag Reel (6 minutes), Karaoke for the theme song, and one of the worst Theatrical Trailers ever.


7 out of 10 Jackasses

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