You hear his name very often because of the fact he’s directed The Graduate and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but I feel that in spite of the popularity which those two films have, Mike Nichols isn’t nearly given as much credit as he deserves as a film director. While not my favourite of his films (sticking with the popular choice in this scenario, that one being The Graduate), Working Girl always struck my mind as one of his most underrated directorial efforts to date. What always irritated me was how some people pass it off as any old cheesy romantic comedy but there’s much more to it than just being any old sappy comedy.
Where Mike Nichols opens up another ground with Working Girl is his distinctively female point of view which isn’t relatively common in its day. Considering the time in which Working Girl had come out, what’s especially fascinating about this point of view is the fact that Nichols leaves his viewers to open up their eyes to the difficulties that women had faced back then, and it’s a particular issue that still can be found today. Working Girl details the sort of troubles that they had gone through for they were not looked highly upon, and the honesty that can be seen within this viewpoint adds to the intrigue that is presented right on the screen in here, showcasing Nichols’s best experiments with protagonists and what they perceive since The Graduate, my personal favourite from him.
Although I really despise referring to films with a gender term, it feels fitting to say that Working Girl is a definitive example of the “female movie” not particularly in the essence that females are sure to love it more than males, but because of how it treats them with the respect that is hard to find in many films of this sort. Without this distinctively female touch, Working Girl wouldn’t work nearly as much as it does right now, and even if the gender politics may not be the most up-to-date, what’s nice is its picture of struggle which they go through especially in the world of corrupt finance.
Many romantic comedies give the aura of predictability at least knowing that you might be certain that they are to end with the male getting the female in the end, and while I’ve no doubt that Working Girl plays on a few rather predictable notes, seeing how it manages to avoid a lot of the tropes which they follow is where a film like this highly succeeds. You don’t particularly watch Melanie Griffith all throughout this film waiting for a specific love to come to her and save her from the world which she is living in, but the film’s ardent gender politics show high respect for them and instead of having the male come to save the female, the female works around this hostile world to save herself.
Performances all across the board are absolutely wonderful, and while Melanie Griffith is undeniably rather charming as the titular “working girl,” Harrison Ford’s own role in the film already went ahead to remind me of watching Cary Grant whenever he led romantic comedies, one in specific that came into my mind being Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday. Sigourney Weaver appears rather cartoonish inside of this performance but she’s always entertaining to watch whenever she takes the spotlight. All of them work together to form a rather charming experience from start to finish.
It would be rather easy to pass off Working Girl as just any other romantic comedy but when you look at what it depicts for the day, soon it’ll be clear that it’s so much more. It may not be a perfect film but it’s always such a charm to watch especially when you look at all the energy that the cast puts into the film. Together with that, Mike Nichols’s means of using his protagonist’s point of view in order to shed a new light upon the worlds that they inhabit creates a different perception of the world of finance, something which he had used for The Graduate when looking at the generational divide. Nichols marries the film to a specific genre but sooner he churns out something that maybe might just as well be much more than what it seems, and with that said, Working Girl is certainly one of his most understated efforts.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Mike Nichols
Screenplay by Kevin Wade
Produced by Douglas Wick
Starring Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver
Release Year: 1988
Running Time: 114 minutes