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Case Number 01079

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Working Girl

Fox // 1988 // 114 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // May 1st, 2001

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All Rise...

Can you believe that Melanie Griffith could at one time be taken seriously enough as an actress to actually earn a Best Actress Oscar nomination? That she did for this enjoyable movie, reviewed by Judge Norman Short.

The Charge

For anyone who's ever won. For anyone who's ever lost. And for everyone who's still in there trying.

Opening Statement

This tale of a girl on the outside trying to get a leg up on the ladder of life made Melanie Griffith's career and got six Academy Award nominations in the process, including one for Best Picture. Working Girl is set in the shark-infested waters of corporate mergers and is one of the best romantic comedy films of the 1980s. Fox has finally released this little gem starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, and Sigourney Weaver on DVD, with a nice presentation if a bit light on the extra content.

Facts of the Case

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) lives on the other side of the great divide from where she works. From the Staten Island Ferry she makes her way to Manhattan where she works as a secretary to a succession of Wall Street wizards who are no better or smarter than she is. The latest of her bosses is Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), a svelte business barracuda with a veneer of friendliness. Tess wants to get out of the cubicle and start making business deals of her own, but her big hair and baby doll voice makes it hard for anyone to take her seriously. Tess feels close to her boss and shares her ideas with her, including a buyout of a radio network for a corporation in trouble. Unfortunately Katherine is trying to steal her idea as her own, but is laid up far away from a skiing injury and can't execute her plan.

Tess makes a bold play for her dream when the opportunity arises: she takes over the deal, pretending to be an executive working out of her boss's office. With new "serious" hair and access to Katherine's wardrobe, she meets with Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), an executive with knowledge of the broadcast media that she needs. Naturally romance is brewing between the two, but how long can she pull of this charade?

The Evidence

It seems every romantic comedy has the subplot of a big secret that has to be found out, but the quality of the script and the performances makes the difference between success and failure. Melanie Griffith has never been better than in this film, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Likewise both Sigourney Weaver and Joan Cusack, who played Griffith's equally big-haired buddy, earned nominations for Best Supporting Actress. Weaver manages to be both friendly and deceitful at the same time, and Cusack's over-the-top performance is reminiscent of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny but remains fresh. Harrison Ford is believable and proficient as the romantic lead, and Alec Baldwin does a fine turn as the sleazy ex-boyfriend. In small roles, Oliver Platt and Kevin Spacey do nicely in comedic set pieces. The script is well written with entertaining but believable situations and good dialogue, and Mike Nichols expertly directs the film as well. It makes for a warm and engaging romantic comedy while not giving away its intelligence.

Fox does a fine job as well bringing Working Girl to DVD, with a very nice anamorphic transfer. The film was shot to be a soft image and therefore lacks the razor sharpness of some transfers, but it remains faithful to the way the film was meant to look. Colors are accurate and there are few nicks or other film defects from the source print.

The soundtrack options are a bit odd, consisting of Dolby Digital 2.0 or 3.0 tracks. The 3.0 track spreads the sound better across the front while losing little of anything from the rear surrounds, which had little to do anyway. The sound is clear, dialogue clearly understood, and the score is also clear and unmuffled in all its 1980s synthpop glory.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Perhaps "glory" was a bit on the sarcastic side, because nothing dates this film worse than the musical score, which screams 1980s at you. The film is dated in other ways as well, from the big hair to the computers on the desks, but the score is the worst culprit. It seems the same people mass-produced these scores for '80s fare such as The Karate Kid and Pretty Woman as well. That said, the Carly Simon song "Let The Rivers Run" won the Oscar for Best Song that year.

Extra content isn't all I wish it could be either. Two trailers and three TV spots for Working Girl and five more trailers for "Fox Flix" chick picks (say that three times fast) are all we get. The bonus trailers are for Nine Months, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Norma Rae, For the Boys (all anamorphic widescreen) and Nine to Five (in full-frame). Considering all the Oscar attention the film received, it would have been nice to get a commentary track or production feature.

Closing Statement

Working Girl is a well-crafted and entertaining film that keeps your interest throughout. Romantic comedy fans will be happy to have this DVD in their collection.

The Verdict

Melanie Griffith gets a suspended sentence for some of her other work because of her fine performance here, and the film is likewise acquitted of any and all charges. Fox is given a slap on the wrist for the lack of meaningful extra content, but is released for their fine work on the technical side.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 84
Audio: 83
Extras: 60
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 86

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailers
• TV Spots


• IMDb

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