9 to 5

9 to 5 cat vs kirk

When I was younger, my media diet was pretty well rounded. As I've gotten older, however, I've pretty much cut out television and books to focus more or less exclusively on movies. There are a lot of reasons for that evolution, but the most important reason is because I think that movies are the most complete art form. A well made movie has great writing, interesting visuals, powerful music, and compelling acting - and unlike TV, it's self contained and compact. To me, films are the ultimate Russian nesting doll of human creativity, combining literature, photography, song and sometimes even dance into one tidy package.

That's handy, because that means that if something goes wrong in one area, there's still other places the movie can make up the difference. Take 9 to 5, for example. This workplace comedy from the early 80s doesn't have a great script. It starts off strong, establishing three compelling main characters and then placing them in a plausible setting, but at about the halfway mark it goes off the rails. When the three under-respected secretaries at the movie's core kidnap their boss and hold him hostage till they can get the paperwork they need to blackmail him the film stops being a lightly comic character piece and starts to become a wacky sitcom. The film's second half still has it's charms, but it is a big letdown given how promising the first half was.

9 to five cat vs kirk bathroom scene

If 9 to 5 was a book, that would be that; once the writing went down the tubes the whole thing would have ended up being unfulfilling. But because 9 to 5 is a movie, it has other strengths that can prop the movie up as the plot slowly deflates. For example, even as the movie descends into cartooniness, the acting remains grounded and strong. Dabney Coleman, who plays the misogynistic boss, nails his part. He's just pompous enough to be a good villain, but he isn't such a dick that he gives the movie a sour aftertaste. Dolly Parton's natural charisma comes through in every scene that she's in, and Lily Tomlin's deadpan comedic style helps to keep the proceedings from getting too unbelievable even when they stop being realistic. The fact that I was still on board with this movie when it ended is due mostly to the actors, who uniformly give likeable performances.

Another of 9 to 5's strengths is its fashion. All of the office wear in the movie is from a very specific era - there are a lot of pastels, and a lot of ridiculous accessories. (At one point Dolly Parton is wearing a sea horse hair clip, and flouncy neck coverings abound.) It was a little hard for me to decipher exactly how I felt about their wardrobe - whether I was laughing at it ironically, or if I was actually appreciating it for what it was. However, the only reason why I was even questioning whether I liked those clothes ironically is because those semi-silly outfits are being worn by characters instead of personality-less models. I liked those characters and didn't want to condescend to them; I wouldn't want care at all about judging a random photo in an outdated magazine.

Of course, you can't talk about 9 to 5 without mentioning Dolly Parton's theme song, which is a perfect little gem of a pop song. If it had been just another single from a popular singer it would still have sounded good, but it has extra resonance because of the movie. Now it has an image associated with it. It sounds less fake when we imagine it coming from a sexually harassed secretary and not from a woman who has been rich and famous for decades.

When you add it all up, it's more than the sum of it's parts. Its a movie that's reletable, but also very dated; its very broad but its also grounded; if it isn't ugly it's at least tacky - but its also strangely beautiful. I suppose that it's possible to have that sort of synergy outside of a movie; in theory, it's possible for a book to contain all those sorts of contradictions. But would a book also have a theme song that gets stuck in your head? I don't think so.

Winner: Me

9 to 5 on IMDB