In 9 to 5, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton play three hard-working women whose boss is a sexist oinker. Violet (Tomlin) is a widow and mother with nerves of steel, but as she watches the men she's trained climb past her on the corporate ladder, she's getting close to losing her cool. Fonda plays Judy, a seemingly milquetoast divorcee whose husband left her for his secretary; her job as a secretary is her first foray into the working world, and Violet takes her under her wing. Dolly, meanwhile, is Doralee, the Gal Friday to their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss, Franklin Hart Jr., played by Dabney Coleman.
The women team up one night over drinks (and a little marijuana) after Hart has pushed them all too far. Doralee, who is constantly having to fight off Hart's lecherous advances, finally realizes that the reason none of the other employees want to have lunch with her is because they think she's having an affair with Hart; Violet is passed over yet again for a promotion, and Judy is berated by Hart for an incident with the Xerox machine. Their plan for revenge goes horribly but hilariously awry, but first the three ladies fantasize about how they'd torment their boss.
9 to 5 isn't just one of my favorite karaoke songs, it's also one of my favorite childhood films. At that time, I adored Lily Tomlin just from seeing her on Saturday Night Live, Laugh-In repeats, and Sesame Street -- I was especially fond of her characters Edith Ann and the Operator. I loved Dolly Parton and her big smile, long fingernails, and Southern sweetness. I also like to think it's because my mom is a working woman, and I've always been proud of her.
Of course, now I love all three of these performers for somewhat different reasons. Jane Fonda has been an outspoken feminist and political activist for decades, as well as a prolific actor who won an Oscar for her role in Klute. Lily Tomlin was crowned the New Queen of Comedy on the cover of Time in 1977; her profile reads, "There are no better comedians around now, and on the evidence of Nashville and The Late Show, few better actresses." It also casually mentions she lives with her frequent collaborator Jane Wagner. As AfterEllen.com noted in 2005, "Although it's been remarked that Tomlin didn't 'come out officially' until relatively recently, her committed relationship with Wagner has long been openly acknowledged (just not intentionally-publicized [sic])." Tomlin narrates and was on of the executive producers on The Celluloid Closet, the HBO doc based on the book by Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. Tomlin continues to work steadily, winning awards for her writing and acting on stage, TV, and screen -- and let's not forget the fireworks between her and the notoriously difficult David O. Russell on the set of I Heart Huckabees. She's also a blogger and an activist for a variety of issues, including animal rights.
I'm still a big fan of Dolly Parton's attitude of doing what makes her happy and not giving a crap about what anyone else thinks, all with a big Southern smile. I love that this comedy has at its core the hard-working, bad-ass spirit that these three women have out the wazoo in real life too.
9 to 5 stands up to the test of time; watching it now makes me laugh and sing, and it makes me want to thank all of the ladies who put up with getting coffee for dolts when it wasn't part of their job description and being called "girls" when they're women.
My favorite scene is Violet's fantasy, where she plays a Snow White-like princess who poisons Hart and then catapults him out the window with the support of adorable woodland creatures and two bluebirds. After the evil Hart is dead, all of the employees are freed from their shackles, and the three women are toasted as queens of the land.
Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled on this clip, so you'll have to click here to watch it. And if you haven't seen the whole movie, check it out!