© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Movies You Missed: '9 To 5'


It's our latest installment of the series that gives us a chance to force family, friends, colleagues and listeners to watch classic films that they may have inadvertently missed. Take it away, Ms. Parton.


DOLLY PARTON: (Singing) Working 9 to 5. What a way to make a living. Barely getting by. It's all taking and no giving.

SIMON: Well, I guess we've dropped a hint that we're going to be talking about the film "9 To 5," a 1980 comedy - a comedy with a timely bite. It stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton as working women who are outraged by their oppressive boss.


DABNEY COLEMAN: (As Franklin Hart) I don't know. I'm not such a bad guy.

JANE FONDA: (As Judy Bernly) You're a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.

SIMON: We found two people who'd never seen this film before. Nicole Beemsterboer. Thanks for being with us, Nicole.

NICOLE BEEMSTERBOER, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: And Sydnee Monday. They are both producers here at NPR. Sydnee, thank you for being with us.

SYDNEE MONDAY, BYLINE: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: Let's see what we can do to summarize the plot for people who maybe haven't seen it like like you until a few days ago.

BEEMSTERBOER: Sure. So I'd say it starts off a very typical 1980's office where there is a big boss who's in charge of everyone and who is demeaning and puts down all of the women around him using words like calling them his girls when they are very obviously much more qualified than him.

SIMON: Lily Tomlin, at one point, comes in and complains about the fact that she wasn't hired for a job for which she was - clearly had superior qualifications. And Dabney Coleman is the boss - says, oh, I hired - I forget the guy's name - because, well, you know, he's got a family.


LILY TOMLIN: (As Violet Newstead) And I don't? What does that got to do with anything?

COLEMAN: (As Franklin Hart) Wait, Violet. Look, my hands are tied here. The company needs a man in this position. Clients would rather deal with men when it comes to figures.

TOMLIN: (As Violet Newstead) Oh, now we're getting at it. I lose a promotion because of some idiot prejudice. The boys in the club are threatened. And you're so intimidated by any woman that won't sit at the back of a bus.

COLEMAN: (As Franklin Hart) Spare me the women's lib crap, OK?

MONDAY: So after Lily Tomlin's character is passed up for promotion, her as well as Dolly Parton's character and Jane Fonda's character end up being in a bar. And they're just kind of talking about their experiences with this horrible boss. And then Lily Tomlin's character thinks, oh, maybe if I were to get rid of my boss, this is how it would go down. And so from there, they end up taking the boss into captivity in his house while his wife is away. And that's how they kind of all come together to take over the company.

SIMON: Let me ask you, beginning with you Sydnee then Nicole, first impressions of the film?

MONDAY: Well, like you said, it's completely topical. A lot of sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigots have been in the news lately. You know, just thinking back, it's almost 40 years since the movie was made. And we're still having the same conversations.

SIMON: Nicole?

BEEMSTERBOER: Yeah. I've had an interesting thought process with this movie. I thought it was very funny. I loved so many of the scenes. I found it really cathartic. I also found parts of it infuriating and incredibly sad. And the more that I think about it, I just get angrier and more sad as I think about all the allegations that have been in the news lately and everything that's been going on even here at NPR.

SIMON: Yeah. Let me draw you both out to talk about that, if we could. NPR has been one of those news organizations were somebody - high executive has been dismissed because of these allegations, which have been confirmed. There was an all staff meeting at NPR on Friday. It was often very intense. That's quite a frame of mind in which to see this film, isn't it?

BEEMSTERBOER: It is. I mean, part of what made, I think, the film so successful and what made it so funny is that so much of what was happening in the movie is so black and white. The boss in power is just across the board mean and terrible, whether he's harassing these women or sexually harassing these people. There's no doubt whose side you're on. And what makes me sad and infuriated about it is that real life is not black and white at all. It's lots and lots of shades of gray.

SIMON: Sydnee?

MONDAY: Yeah. I was kind of thinking about that, too, and just thinking about how these three women played by Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda are kind of - they're experiencing abuse from their boss on different degrees and different levels. Dolly Parton's character is very overtly sexually harassed. But no matter which degree her level of degree of abuse, it's abuse. And it shouldn't be happening, and yeah.

BEEMSTERBOER: I did love that the movie starts out with sort of your - the women aren't teamed up together right yet, right?

SIMON: Well, in fact, they're sort of at cross-purposes because they think something about Dolly Parton's character that's actually not true.

MONDAY: And if I could just say something about that. I think one of the things about patriarchy that's so insidious and horrible is that it often puts women against each other.

SIMON: We shouldn't feel too bad about, perhaps, spoiling the ending of a movie that came out in 1980. But there's an epilogue at the end of the film - pretty satisfying isn't it?

BEEMSTERBOER: Yes. Yeah. It is intensely satisfying.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, this shows the women have gone on to successful careers in business. And (laughter) Mr. Hart, the oppressive boss, is abducted in the Amazon, as I recall, right?

BEEMSTERBOER: Yeah, something like that, right.

SIMON: He becomes head of the Brazil office - right? - because he did so well and then he gets abducted in the end, so yeah.

BEEMSTERBOER: Right, right. So everybody wins in the end. The women win in the end. He gets what's coming to him, but all in this way that we can all laugh about.

MONDAY: Yeah. And I was thinking about, you know, he was given this position, which was presented to him as a promotion, because of the work of these three women taking over the company and making really great changes and making it livable.

SIMON: We should explain the women take control of the company. They not only make it more more profitable than ever, they make it a better place to work. They have - I'm trying to recall - like a...

BEEMSTERBOER: They create a daycare.

MONDAY: An AA program.

SIMON: Right, exactly. Equal pay for equal jobs. So it not only becomes - it's not only a successful business, it's a better work environment for everyone.

BEEMSTERBOER: It is. And they did it all on their own while keeping their boss under wraps.

MONDAY: And, of course, he gets the credit, but it all works out.

SIMON: Nicole Beemsterboer is a producer in the investigations unit. Sydnee Monday is a producer on the arts desk. Thank you so much, both of you, for being with us.

MONDAY: Thank you, Scott.



PARTON: (Singing) Tumble out of bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition and yawn and stretch and try to come to life. Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumping. Out on the streets, the traffic starts jumping with folks like me on the job from 9 to 5. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.