Working Girl
Working Girl
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Notes / Reviews

Working Girl is a 1988 romantic comedy film written by Kevin Wade and directed by Mike Nichols. It tells the story of a Staten Island-raised secretary, Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), working in the mergers and acquisitions department of a Wall Street investment bank. When her boss, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), breaks her leg skiing, Tess uses her absence and connections, including Parker's errant beau Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), to put forward her idea for a merger deal.

The film features a notable opening sequence following Manhattan-bound commuters on the Staten Island Ferry accompanied by Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run", for which she received the Academy Award for Best Song. The film was a box office hit, grossing a worldwide total of $103 million.

Plot summary

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is an intelligent, working-class secretary, at a firm called Petty Marsh, who has recently earned a bachelor's degree in Business by attending college at night. Her goal is to move out of the secretarial pool and into an executive position. As she turns 30, her dream remains unrealized; because her education was not acquired at a prestigious school, she cannot gain entry to her firm's training program for recent college graduates. After being misled into thinking that her boss, David Lutz (Oliver Platt), is helping her get a better job, Tess finds herself set up as a sexual plaything for one of his sleazy friends, Bob Speck (Kevin Spacey); she then gets into trouble by publicly calling her boss a "sleazoid pimp with a tiny little dick".

Tess is reassigned as secretary to a new financial executive, Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Seemingly supportive and benevolent, Katharine encourages Tess to share any good business ideas she has. Tess suggests to Katharine that Trask Industries, one of the firm's clients, should invest in radio, so it can gain more of a foothold in the media market. When Katharine seems interested, Tess begins to feel her luck is finally changing. However, when Katharine breaks her leg on a skiing trip in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit for her. While at Katharine's place, Tess accidentally finds evidence that Katharine was planning to steal Tess's idea and pass it off as her own. That night, when Tess returns home, she finds her boyfriend Mick Dugan (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, Doreen DiMucci (Elizabeth Whitcraft). Disillusioned with Katharine and disgusted with Mick, she returns to Katharine's apartment and begins to hatch her own plan.

The next day, Tess calls Dewey Stone executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), using her boss's name as an entree. She tells Jack that she has a proposal to run by him and sets up a meeting. The evening before the meeting, Tess attends a merger party, wearing a sophisticated new hairstyle and an expensive cocktail dress from Katharine's closet, which she models beforehand for her friend Cynthia (Joan Cusack), called "Cyn". To calm her nerves, she accepts a Valium from Cyn.

At the party, she unknowingly encounters Jack, who never mentions his name, and has a few drinks with him, but Tess passes out due to the combination of alcohol and pills. Jack takes her to his place in a cab; Tess wakes up the next morning in Jack's bed wearing only her underwear and leaves before Jack awakens. On entering the meeting, she realizes that Jack is the man with whom she spent the night. She submits her proposal to him but his colleagues seem uninterested. Returning to her own office, Tess cries to Cyn that she at least gave it a shot and is mortified about the previous evening. Jack then arrives at the office and Cyn (at Tess's frantic request) pretends to be Tess's secretary. Jack announces that they will proceed with Tess's pitch.

After Cyn’s engagement party, Mick and Tess officially break up. Days later, Tess and Jack crash Oren Trask's (Philip Bosco) daughter’s (Barbara Garrick) wedding, intending to make an appointment and pitch their plan. They succeed and meet with two of his executives. Trask is interested. Back at Jack's apartment, the pair end up in bed together. Tess wants to tell Jack about herself, but learning of his relationship with Katharine, she decides not to reveal herself.

On the day of the Trask/Metro meeting, Katharine returns home with her leg still in plaster, enlisting Tess's aid as her personal assistant at home. At Katharine's insistence, Jack visits but extricates himself quickly seeing that Katharine has marriage on her mind. Tess, who was hiding in the closet, emerges after he leaves, gives Katharine her pills and rushes out of the apartment, accidentally leaving her appointment book behind. Katharine reads it and becomes enraged after she discovers what Tess has been up to.

At the meeting for the Trask/Metro merger, Jack and Tess realize they're in love. However, Katharine storms into the meeting, accusing Tess of stealing her idea, and announces that she is just a secretary. Tess is unable to make the others understand that Katharine is the liar and leaves the meeting in shame. At Cynthia’s wedding, she finds that Mick is going on with his life with Doreen.

Back at the office, Tess cleans out her desk and packs her belongings. She bumps into Jack, Katharine and Trask in the lobby. As Katharine tries to lead the group onto the elevator, Jack refuses to come, stating that Tess is this team's leader and he believes her. He and Tess convince Trask that Katharine has been lying (by asking Katharine to recall what gave her the idea for the merger, which, of course, she cannot). Trask assures Katharine she will lose her job over this duplicity, and offers Tess an "entry-level" job, which she happily accepts. Katharine haughtily stalks out of their lives in disgrace.

Tess moves in with Jack and starts her first day of her new job at Trask Industries. When she arrives, she sees a woman in an office, talking on the phone, and presumes she is to be the woman's secretary. However, it is quickly revealed that the woman is, in fact, Tess’s secretary (Amy Aquino), and Tess realizes that Trask's definition of "entry-level" involves the opportunities she had dreamed of. She insists her new secretary treat her as a colleague, rather than a superior, proving she is going be a very different boss from Katharine. Tess then calls Cynthia, to tell her the good news, and Cynthia shouts to everyone that Tess has finally made it out of the typing pool.


Actor notes

*Kevin Spacey was brought in as a last-minute replacement for another actor in the part of Bob Speck.

*When Katharine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) comes back to New York and gets out of the helicopter, she carries a big stuffed-toy gorilla. Weaver played the role of Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988) just a few months before.

*The movie is David Duchovny's screen debut. He appears in two scenes; once at Tess's birthday party at her apartment and later at Cyn's engagement party. This is also Oliver Platt's first screen role.


Box office

Working Girl was released on December 23, 1988 in 1,051 theaters and grossed USD $4.7 million on its opening weekend. It went on to make $63.8 million in North America and $39.2 million in the rest of the world for a worldwide total of $103 million.


The film was very well-received by critics with an 84 percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes and a 73 metascore at Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and wrote, "The plot of Working Girl is put together like clockwork. It carries you along while you're watching it, but reconstruct it later and you'll see the craftsmanship". In her review for the Washington Post, Rita Kempley described Melanie Griffith as "luminous as Marilyn Monroe, as adorable as one of Disney's singing mice. She clearly has the stuff of a megastar, and the movie glows from her". Janet Maslin, in her review for the New York Times, wrote, "Mike Nichols, who directed Working Girl, also displays an uncharacteristically blunt touch, and in its later stages the story remains lively but seldom has the perceptiveness or acuity of Mr. Nichols's best work". In his review for Time, Richard Corliss wrote, "Kevin Wade shows this in his smart screenplay, which is full of the atmospheric pressures that allow stars to collide. Director Mike Nichols knows this in his bones. He encourages Weaver to play (brilliantly) an airy shrew. He gives Ford a boyish buoyancy and Griffith the chance to be a grownup mesmerizer".



*1989: Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

*1989: Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Melanie Griffith)

*1989: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture (Sigourney Weaver)

*1989: Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song - "Let the River Run"

*1989: Academy Award for Best Song - "Let the River Run" (Carly Simon)

*1990: Grammy Awards of 1990 for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television - "Let the River Run" (Composing and arranging)

Academy Award nominations

*Best Actress in a Leading Role (Melanie Griffith)

*Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Joan Cusack)

*Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Sigourney Weaver)

*Best Director

*Best Picture

Shooting locations

Many scenes were shot in the New Brighton section of Staten Island in New York City.

The lobby of Tess' office building was located in the 7 World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11 attacks. The scenes of Tess' secretarial pool and Katharine Parker's office were filmed at 1 State Street Plaza at the corner of Whitehall and State Street. One Chase Manhattan Plaza was featured at the end as the Trask Industries building.httphttp



#"Let the River Run" - Carly Simon

#"In Love (Instrumental)" - Carly Simon

#"The Man That Got Away" (Instrumental)

#"The Scar" (Instrumental) - Carly Simon

#"Let the River Run" - The St. Thomas Choir Of Men And Boys

#"Lady In Red" - Chris De Burgh

#"Carlotta's Heart" - Carly Simon

#"Looking Through Katherine's House" - Carly Simon

#"Poor Butterfly" (Instrumental) - Sonny Rollins

#"I'm So Excited" - Pointer Sisters

TV series

Working Girl was also made into a short-lived NBC television series in 1990, starring Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill. It only lasted 12 episodes.


This text has been derived from Working Girl on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0