Think of ‘Working Girl’ as the corporate drama equivalent of the Cinderella fairytale. The “Cinderella” here is Melanie Griffith’s sweet and adorable Tess McGill, who works as a secretary at a New York brokerage firm. But beneath all that cuteness is a very ambitious and driven woman. Things are not going well for her lately. People are constantly trying to take advantage of her and she also learns that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. When her boss plays a filthy joke on her by setting her up on a date with a salacious young man from arbitrage (Kevin Spacey in a hilarious cameo), she hits back by publicly shaming her boss in front of everyone at the office.
This leads to a new job in another firm, as the secretary of Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver). Katherine is the “evil stepmother” of this story. She is, to put it simply, a scheming bitch who knows how to hide her true intentions behind an ever-present smile and amiable nature. When Katherine fractures her leg in a skiing accident, Tess learns that Katherine had planned to steal her idea and pass it off her as her own. Tess is asked to take over Katherine’s daily duties and responsibilities while Katherine recuperates; she decides to take this idea and make it happen herself. Help comes in the form of an investment broker named Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), who happens to be Katherine’s boyfriend. Jack turns out to be a very nice guy who is stuck with the wrong woman, unfortunately.
Now Jack has three challenges in front of him: Tell Katherine that he wants to break up with her, make his relationship with Tess work, and also help Tess put together a deal with a big shot client. Alec Baldwin appears in a supporting role as Tess’s cheating boyfriend. I wasn’t a big fan of Griffith until I came across this movie. She is phenomenal here. It’s easily her best performance, and I don’t know why I took this long to see it. She brilliantly conveys Tess’s desperation without overdoing it and plays her as this bold, determined and extremely vulnerable woman who knows how to get back up after a small setback. When she gets nervous, she is able to cleverly conceal it underneath a confident exterior.
This is a lighthearted, inspirational and feel-good romantic comedy that may not reach the same heights as some of Nichols’ earlier films, but it’s a solid movie in its own right. It’s not only a perfect hangout movie but also a perfect ’80s movie. The soundtrack is terrific and features Chris de Burgh’s “The Lady in Red” as well as an original song “Let the River Run”, specifically written for the movie by Carly Simon. The song won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe as well as a Grammy. Both Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver won Golden Globes for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively.