Classic FILM Reviews and essays

9 to 5 (1980)
Directed by Colin Higgins
Staring:  Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin & Dolly Parton

As a historical satire, "9 to 5" is in a line of business all by itself.


With the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) by three states, many women were angry that they could not achieve equal recognition under the Constitution. "9 to 5" captures in social satire the anger of women regarding disparate treatment at the time of the ERA's impending collapse.

The film begins with the sexual harassment of Doralee (Dolly Parton), Franklin Hart's (
Dabney Coleman) theft of credit for Violet's (Lily Tomlin) office filing system, and Hart's passing of Violet for promotion. These incidents illustrate the profound inequality in the male managed workforce of the 1970s and 1980s. To add insult to injury, women also faced the age old problem of working husbands cheating on their housewives with their secretaries, which was what happened to Jane Fonda's character, Judy, that forced her into the workforce.


The screenplay by Patricia Resnick and Collin Higgins crackles with wit and slap-stick sight gags to drive home feminist anger at a male dominated society.

Doralee, Violet and Judy finally become fed up with their chauvinist boss, Hart, so they kidnap him and hold him in his own home, while his wife is away on vacation. The women build a rigging system to detain Hart, utilizing a garage door opener with a leather restraining harness. The scenes with Hart in the harness become a quasi-bondage scene, where the women were his dominatrix.

Other gags such as the coffee artificial sweetener being named "Sweet & Slim" (a metaphor for what men expected of women) and the scene where Hart is trapped at home watching soap operas like a housewife are other examples of how each frame cuts into its subject matter.

One of the most satisfying portions of the film is the pot induced fantasies involving revenge against Hart. The physical comedy during these scenes are top notch, including Jane Fonda's character shooting at Hart like in a carnival arcade game, Dolly Parton roping Hart like he was cattle, and Lily Tomlin's masterful dark portrayal of "Snow White", surrounded by animated forest animals, while she poisons Hart.

The male dominated world is turned upside down by the end of the film as the women manage the office in Hart's absence. The three women's progressive ideas, including daycare, job sharing, personalizing the office, and implementing other progressive work programs increase productivity 20% in just six weeks and earn the admiration of the company's founder.

After watching "9 to 5" recently, it is undeniable that "9 to 5" is not only a cinematic triumph, but it is an important historical document of a time when sexism was openly practiced.


  dennis ChiU

Green light means "Go: this is a must-see movie".

Yellow light means "Caution: I re- commend this film with reservations".

Red light means "Stop: don't waste your time".