Definitions

Working Girl

Working Girl

Working Girl tells the story of a Staten Island-raised secretary, Tess McGill, working in the mergers and acquisitions department of a Wall Street investment bank. When her boss, Katharine Parker, breaks her leg skiing, Tess uses her absence and connections, including Parker's errant beau Jack Trainer, to put forward her idea for a merger deal.

The movie was written by Kevin Wade and directed by Mike Nichols. It features a dramatic opening sequence following Manhattan-bound commuters on the Staten Island Ferry accompanied by Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run," for which she received the Academy Award for Best Song.

Plot summary

Tess McGill is an intelligent, working-class woman who has recently received a night school business degree. Her goal: to move out of the typing pool and into the executive suite. As she turns 30, her dream remains unrealized. After being misled into thinking her boss is getting her a better job, Tess finds herself set up as a sexual plaything for arbitrage expert Bob Speck, and promptly quits after publicly calling her boss a pimp.

Assigned as secretary to Katharine Parker, Tess is encouraged to share any good ideas. Tess suggests that Trask Industries, one of the firm's clients, invest in radio instead of television, where it can gain more of a foothold on the market. When Katharine tells her she will help, Tess begins to feel her luck is finally changing. However, when Parker breaks her leg on a skiing trip in Europe, she asks Tess to house-sit for her. While at Katharine's, Tess accidentally finds evidence that Katharine was planning to steal Tess's idea. When Tess returns home, she finds her boyfriend Mick in bed with another woman. Disillusioned with Katharine and disgusted with Mick, she returns to Katharine's place and begins to hatch her own plan.

The next day, Tess calls executive Jack Trainer, using her boss' name as an entree. She tells Trainer that she has a proposal to run by him and sets up a meeting. The evening before the meeting, Tess attends a merger party (wearing a sophisticated new hairstyle and an expensive cocktail dress of Katharine's). To calm her nerves beforehand, she takes a Valium from Katherine's medicine cabinet. At the party, she unknowingly encounters Jack, who never mentions his name. They have a few drinks together, but Tess passes out thanks to the combination of alcohol and pills. Jack takes her to his place in a cab; Tess wakes up the next morning in her underwear and leaves before Jack awakens. On entering the meeting, she realizes who Trainer is. She submits her proposal to him but his colleagues seem uninterested. Returning to her own office, Tess cries to her best friend Cyn that she at least gave it a shot and is mortified about the previous evening. Jack arrives and Cyn (at Tess's frantic request) pretends to be Tess's secretary. Jack announces they will proceed with Tess's pitch.

At Cyn’s engagement party, Mick and Tess officially break up. Days later, Tess and Jack crash Oren Trask's daughter’s wedding, intending to make an appointment and pitch their plan. They succeed and meet with two of his employees. Trask is interested. Back at Jack's apartment, the pair end up in bed together. When Tess learns of Jack's relationship with Katharine, she decides not to tell him the truth about herself. On the day of the Trask meeting, Katharine returns, enlisting Tess's aid as her personal assistant at home. At Katharine's insistence, Jack visits but extricates himself quickly seeing Katharine has marriage on her mind. Tess, who was hiding in the closet, emerges after he leaves, gives Katharine her pills and rushes out of the apartment, accidentally leaving her Daytimer behind. Katharine reads it and discovers what Tess has been up to.

At the meeting for the Trask/Metro merger, Jack and Tess realize they're in love. Katharine soon barges in, accusing Tess of stealing her idea, and announces that she is, in fact, just a secretary. Tess is unable to make the others understand that Katharine is the liar. Back at the office, Tess packs her belongings. She bumps into Jack, Katharine and Trask in the lobby. As Katharine tries to lead the group onto the elevator, Jack refuses to come, stating that Tess is this team's leader and he believes her. He and Tess convince Trask that Katharine has been lying (by asking Katherine to recall what gave her the idea for the merger, which, of course, she cannot). Trask assures Katharine she will lose her job over this duplicity, and offers Tess an "entry-level" job, which she happily accepts.

Tess moves in with Jack. Arriving at Trask Industries, she sees a woman in an office on the phone, and presumes she once again is just a secretary. It is quickly revealed that the woman is, in fact, Tess’s secretary. Once alone, Tess calls Cyn telling her the good news, then Cyn shouts to everyone that Tess has finally made it out of the typing pool.

Main cast

Actor Role
Melanie Griffith Tess McGill
Harrison Ford Jack Trainer
Sigourney Weaver Katharine Parker
Alec Baldwin Mick Dugan
Joan Cusack Cynthia
Philip Bosco Oren Trask
Nora Dunn Ginny
Oliver Platt David Lutz
James Lally Turkel
Kevin Spacey Bob Speck
Elizabeth Whitcraft Doreen DiMucci
Jeffrey Nordling Tim Rourke
Robert Easton Armbrister
Olympia Dukakis Personnel Director
Amy Aquino Alice Baxter
Timothy Carhart Tim Draper

Actor notes

  • Kevin Spacey was brought in as a last-minute replacement for another actor in the part of Bob Speck.
  • When Tess goes to meet Katharine Parker on the helipad, she is carrying a stuffed gorilla, a direct reference to the film Gorillas in the Mist, a film that Sigourney Weaver had finished a few months earlier.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer and Meryl Streep were considered for the roles of Tess McGill and Katharine Parker respectively. Studio executives seriously considered Shelley Long for the role of Tess McGill because of her high TV Q rating at the time. Lorraine Bracco revealed in her memoir, On the Couch (2007) that she was devastated when director Mike Nichols didn't offer her the title role after she thought she gave a great audition.
  • The movie is David Duchovny's screen debut. He appears in two scenes; once at Tess's birthday party at her apartment and later at Cyn's engagement party. This is also Oliver Platt's first screen role.
  • While at the wedding, Harrison Ford asks a bridesmaid who Oren Trask is dancing with, the part of the bridesmaid is played by Ricki Lake.

Awards

Winner

Academy Award nominations

Shooting locations

Many scenes were shot in the New Brighton section of Staten Island in New York City.

The lobby of Tess's office building was that of the now-destroyed 7 World Trade Center. The scenes of Tess's secretarial pool and Katharine Parker's office were filmed at 1 State Street Plaza at the corner of Whitehall and State Street. One Chase Manhattan Plaza was featured at the end as the The Trask Industries building.

DVD release

Working Girl was released on DVD on April 17, 2001. The film was presented in anamorphic widescreen in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Features

  • Available subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Available audio tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Two Theatrical Trailers
  • Three TV Spots
  • Fox Flix

Rating

The film was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America. Mainly for: Some Sexual Content/Nudity, Brief Drug Use and Language.

Soundtrack

Tracklist

TV series

Working Girl was also made into a short-lived NBC television series in 1990, starring Sandra Bullock as Tess McGill. It only lasted 12 episodes.

External links

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