Mar 09

“9 to 5”: Possible Film Remake Welcomed

When the movie 9 to 5 was released in 1980, women’s liberation was still a fresh concept for most of America. Rewatching the comedy, about three women fighting back against a sexist boss, you’ll notice that the clothing and office technology has changed, but much of the film’s message about the dynamics between men and women in the workplace remains sadly relevant nearly 40 years later. Oliver Staley, Quartz at Work

According to various news reports, it could happen: a reboot of the popular 1980 comedy 9 to 5 that starred Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton. And rumor has it that all three may relish the idea of returning as their characters, older and wiser.

The official description of 9 to 5 on Rotten Tomatoes: “Three female office workers become friends and get revenge against their boss, a sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot, and in so doing create a more efficient and pleasant work environment.” Dabney Coleman plays the villainous boss.

When the “25th Anniversary Special Edition DVD” was released a few years ago it was aptly, in fact, called the “Sexist, Egotistical, Lying, Hypocritical Bigot Edition.”

Although critical reviews weren’t over the top when 9 to 5 was originally released in theaters, audience response was very positive. It was actually the highest grossing comedy that year and the second-highest of any genre.

Refresh your memory with this trailer:

In People Magazine, Drew Mackie states that one of the many reasons the feminist message of 9 to 5 still holds up today is that sexist workplace issues and the “pink-collar ghetto” continue to exist, of course. “It continues to be tough to be a lower-level employee, women face challenges men don’t, and in particular it’s just a lot of work to be a mom with a full-time job. In fact, if someone were to remake the movie today, they wouldn’t have to change many of the challenges faced by the characters in the original.”

One of those challenges is sexual harassment, a term that wasn’t even used in the film because it wasn’t yet a significant part of the cultural lexicon. Tara Murtha, Rolling Stone:

Mr. Hart spends his days harassing Doralee [Parton] by telling her she’s much more to him than ‘just a dumb secretary.’ He lies about sleeping with her, and purposefully knocks pencils on the floor so she’ll lean over and pick them up. He insults Judy [Fonda], and bullies Violet [Tomlin] by demanding she fix his coffee. After learning she lost out on a promotion to a man she trained, Violet confronts Mr. Hart. ‘Spare me the women’s lib crap,’ he replies.

“The concept of ‘sexual harassment’ as a legal issue,” notes Rebecca Traister, New Republic, “wasn’t drilled into the American consciousness until eleven years after the release of 9 to 5, when Anita Hill testified at Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.”

Get this, though: When interviewed in 2009 in relation to the opening of the Broadway musical adaptation, 9 to 5‘s writer, Patricia Resnick, was repeatedly confronted by male journalists who believed this issue was no longer relevant (Alana Newhouse, Tablet).

But now it’s 2018, and #MeToo.

The ending of 9 to 5 offers possible solutions to the female workers’ issues that include “job sharing, flexible hours, and on-site child care,” notes Staley of Quartz, who recently interviewed Resnick. She’s not impressed with progress (not) made in real life.

Most of that is still not really around. If you look at the number of major companies that have daycare, it’s a handful. Flexible hours, job sharing, that’s still not really standard. They were kind of cutting-edge ideas, but it’s amazing to me that they are not all in common practice still.

May 04

“Grace and Frankie”: Husbands Emerge From the Closet

New Netflix fictional series Grace and Frankie answers the question, What happens to a spouse’s life when her straight—she thinks—husband is not? To complicate matters, he’s already been having an affair with another man—and now they want to get married.

So far, we have an unfortunate but not uncommon kind of scenario—the closeted spouse, the affair(s) before the secret is discovered or disclosed. Add in the fact that in Grace and Frankie the affair has been going on for 20 years.

Starring in Grace and Frankie are Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the titular characters and Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston as the husbands. It premieres as a streamer later this week, on May 8th.

The trailer is designed to represent five stages of change: 1. Shock, 2. Denial, 3. Confusion, 4. Rage, and 5. Reflection:


Liz Shannon Miller, Indiewire, sees the pilot episode as “painting Fonda and Tomlin pretty bluntly into their stereotypical boxes: Fonda as the tight-laced Type A perfectionist with a fondness for vodka and Tomlin as an easy-going hippie type who freely experiments with substances of all kinds. It’s a classic odd couple pairing that gets leaned on a little hard for its comedy potential.”

John Koblin, New York Times: “Ms. Fonda’s Grace is an uptight 70-year-old former beauty product executive who has rocky relationships with nearly everyone in her life. Ms. Tomlin’s character is a free-spirited hippie who offers painting lessons to ex-cons and dabbles in peyote and pot.”

Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal: “As the title tells, they’re the story here—two women who cordially detest everything about one another’s habits, views, values, working their way toward an alliance. Grace, who once ran a beauty products company and who would rather die of pain wearing killer heels than spoil the look of an outfit, now lives with someone whose clothes reek of pot, and who fills the house with weird chanting and, occasionally, with those ex-convicts. Frankie, immovable, is full of her own lofty contempt.”


Brian Lowry, Variety:: “…(T)he men offer some quieter moments, ranging from giddiness over being honest about their long-deferred affection to weariness dealing with the fallout. ‘I’m never not going to be coming out, am I?’ Robert says in a later episode of the six previewed.”

“The kids, however, barely register, and there’s too much time spent on Frankie and Sol’s son Coyote (Ethan Embry), a recovering junkie.”


Rabinowitz: “It’s…clear, as the action progresses, that the show has its mind on matters other than husbands coming out—matters like women suddenly alone, women no longer young, marriage itself—large subjects it pursues with a keen instinct for the hilarious and no stops for right-minded messages.”

Koblin: “In an era when comedies like ‘Broad City’ and ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ unreel jokes at a machine gun clip, there’s a slower pacing at work here.”

Miller: “…(Q)uite frankly, it takes a long time for things to feel at all funny. I clocked my first real chuckle at about 17 minutes into the first episode. If you were expecting a hilarious comedy, downgrade those expectations appropriately, and instead look forward to what, with some patience, could be an intriguing portrait of modern relationships, anchored by some incredible talent.”

Sep 19

“This Is Where I Leave You”: Therapists Won’t Like This

Welcome Home. Get uncomfortable. Tagline for This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You is the type of star-studded dysfunctional-family dramedy you might get kinda excited about after seeing the previews:

But then you find the disappointing reviews. Many say it’s a predictable and not-funny-enough, not good-enough script—adapted, incidentally, by Jonathan Tropper himself, the author of the 2009 best-selling novel.

Cynthia Fuchs, Pop Matters, sums it all up: “Girls want babies, boys want reassurance, girls nurture, boys need to wander. Dad is dead. Long live formula.”

Despite this, you dig even deeper into what the critics are saying. Alas, you find out that not one, but two, therapists are (once again) depicted badly.

More About the Plot and Characters

Rodrigo Perez, IndieWire, describes “the doyenne of the household” (Jane Fonda) as “an audacious TMI-sharing psychiatrist whose bestselling book exploited her own family’s dysfunction for her gain, much to their resentment.” Fonda’s character Hillary posits, “Secrets are a cancer to a family.”

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the brood, per Perez:

…(O)f course the family in question is composed of nondescript characters and recognizable stereotypes. Bateman once again appears in his favorite role: the perpetually exasperated ‘rational’ guy who has to navigate his neurotic and irrational family. There’s Paul (Corey Stoll), the older resentful brother who can’t get his wife (Kathryn Hahn) pregnant. Phillip (Adam Driver), the baby of the family, is an unreliable, juvenile shithead who’s now dating his cougar-esque ex-therapist (Connie Britton). Wendy [Tina Fey] has two kids, a neglectful, asshole workaholic husband (Aaron Lazar), and still pines for an old boyfriend who suffers from a head injury that’s made him slow (Timothy Olyphant). Rose Byrne co-stars as a girl from Judd’s past that just might be the woman he needs now (how opportune!). Unsurprisingly, no one’s happy, everyone’s dealing with different levels of pain and hardship, and that’s life, right?

Although viewers know Hillary’s adult kids aren’t happy with their mom’s oversharing, specifically how other family members react to Phillip’s new relationship and/or to the boundary-breaking therapist he’s seeing is info I couldn’t find.

Chris Nashawaty,, concludes the following, however, about the various characters’ representations: “The movie is so festooned with clichés it proves that Tolstoy was dead wrong when he wrote that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This clan is just like the one in August: Osage County (or Home For the Holidays or The Family Stone), only with more eye-rolling one-liners about Jane Fonda’s cantaloupe-sized breast implants. It’s a misfire that’s especially confounding considering that you couldn’t ask for a more promising cast of brother-and-sister bickerers.”

Overall Reviews

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter: “You laugh in spite of yourself in This Is Where I Leave You, a potty-mouthed comedy with enough exasperation, aggravations, long-standing grievances and get-me-outta-here moments of family stress to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever had to endure large clan gatherings that might have lasted a bit too long.”

Rodrigo PerezIndieWire: “Too bland to be memorable, too painless to hate, the slight ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ is like a forgettable breeze. While ultimately disposable, with almost nothing insightful to say about family, at least the movie has the decency and self-respect to not grovel or beg you to love it.”

Zachary Wigon, Village Voice: “The most charitable thing you can say about This Is Where I Leave You is that it is resolutely innocuous — a nothing of a movie, neutered and sanitary. Its subject, perhaps unintentionally, is the inexhaustible narcissism of affluent white people, who here mope and moan their way through various break-ups and infidelities.”

Scott Foundas, Variety: “Sitting shiva makes the heart grow fonder (and the libido rage and the repressed grievances runneth over) in ‘This Is Where I Leave You,’ a sprawling ensemble dramedy that starts out like a full-tilt sit-com and gradually migrates to a place of genuine feeling.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “The actors all seem lost and jittery. The direction seems phoned in while waiting in line at some suburban ATM machine. If you crave freshness, originality or quality, cherish the decision to pass up This Is Where I Leave You and be content with the knowledge that you didn’t miss a thing.”

Jun 18

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding: Not So Positive Reviews

Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding: a new movie that stars some great female actors and that has the sound of something right up my alley—something I actually want to want to see. (Note: That double want-to is not a typo. My first step is wanting to want. The next is checking it out before deciding.)

Its tagline:

 Life is a journey. Family is a trip.

I read the film description found on the website; here’s a brief excerpt:

For uptight Manhattan lawyer Diane (Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener), crazy means driving her teenage son Jake (Nat Wolff) and daughter Zoe (Elizabeth Olsen) to Woodstock to visit their grandmother Grace (Jane Fonda). The crazy part is that the kids have never met Grace. In fact, Diane hasn’t spoken to her mother in twenty years.

Crazy? Okay. I like “crazy.”

And now the Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding trailer:

So, the crisis that precipitates Diane’s trip to see her mom is that her marriage is ending. Says critic Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger:

Because, at this vulnerable point in her life, it’s time to seek out the hippie-dippie mother she absolutely hates. The mother she actually had arrested for selling dope. The mother she blames for everything, and whom she has not seen or spoken to in 20 years.
Plausibility, I’d like you to introduce you to ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding.’ ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding,’ this is Plausibility.

Because clearly you two have never met.

Oh. Well, that doesn’t sound so good…

Amy BiancolliSan Francisco Chronicle:

The answer to everyone’s thorny psychological issues? Why, romance, of course! Trite, cloying romance with three supporting hotties who just happen to be standing around.

Ick. Getting worse. But what about the great potential here for resolving conflicts between characters, for intergenerational healing?

Marshall Fine,

…(E)verything in this film is so on-the-nose that it turns into the place where subtlety goes to die…

The occasional moments of genuine emotion are swept aside by the contrived confrontations between parent and child.


But wait, here’s a more positive perspective from critic Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times:

The push and pull between mother and daughter provides many of the film’s better moments, but it is most moving when the camera catches Grace watching from a distance as Diane blossoms, a reminder of how Fonda can speak volumes with a look…

Additionally, Sharkey throws out a reminder of a significant title element:

There is the matter of the ‘misunderstanding,’ a secret that slips out and seriously rocks the boat.

Right! The “misunderstanding!” That’s surely the thing that will provide some needed and compelling dramatic tension! A big secret! So, the ending will be quite juicy, huh…?

Christy LemireAssociated Press:

For a movie that’s supposed to be about complicated issues of family and identity, it’s all very neat and tidy. And we haven’t even gotten to the cringe-inducing moment when Diane literally unties a balloon from a sandbag to represent her willingness to let go.

Connie Ogle, Miami Herald:

If nothing else, you must applaud ‘Peace, Love & Misunderstanding’ for its cheery insistence that a lifetime of resentment can float away as easily as a helium-filled balloon.

OMG. It seems as though most of the top female critics are not at all impressed with Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding. Not with the ending, not with the middle, not with the beginning. Interestingly, though, some of the top male critics are. Kind of.

Rex Reed, New York Observer:

Everyone learns something, in follow-the-dots movie predictability, but you like the characters so much you want them to smile and find peace in new beginnings and fresh family bonds. They bring their own hang-ups and learn to change gracefully.

Leonard Maltin,

Sometimes all I ask of a film is that it offer a pleasant diversion for an hour and a half. That’s exactly what I got from Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding. I fear it may get a critical drubbing during the heated atmosphere of the current movie season, but I stand by my opinion. It’s an amiable film with an appealing cast in a highly attractive setting.

And these would be the so-called favorable reviews…?

Well, so, in the end, I’m simply not at peace seeing a movie no one can really love. That I could ever imagine I’d enjoy it was just one big misunderstanding after all.