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.

Aug 28

“Grandma”: Lily Tomlin’s Not Your Grandpa’s Woman

Sony Classics describes the highly liked Lily Tomlin-centered comedy/drama Grandma, written and directed by Paul Weitz:

Lily Tomlin is Elle Reid. Elle has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when Elle’s granddaughter Sage unexpectedly shows up needing $600 bucks before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.

Young Sage (Julia Garner) is pregnant, you see, and what she wants is an abortion. Scott Foundas, Variety: “Though likely to be variously praised and pilloried as a pro-choice film, Weitz’s film is really a movie about choice in both the specific and the abstract — about the choices we make, for good and for ill, and how we come to feel about them through the prism of time.”

Watch the trailer:

The Road Trip

June Thomas, Slate: “Since Elle, a poet and occasional academic writer-in-residence, has just $43 to her name and has made a charming, if unmelodic, wind chime from her chopped-up credit cards, there’s only one possible course of action: The two of them whip the cover off Vi’s amazing old Dodge and hit the road, hoping to find a friend who’ll lend them the cash.”

Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice:

During this road trip, the thorny, multi-dead-end map of family resentments is laid out. Sage doesn’t dare tell her distracted businesswoman mother, Judy (played, with both sharpness and subtlety, by Marcia Gay Harden), about the pregnancy. Elle isn’t speaking to Judy, either — the two have had a falling-out. What’s more, all three women are still in mourning for Violet, Elle’s longtime partner, Judy’s mom, and Sage’s other grandmother: She died not so long ago, after suffering through an illness…

Scott Foundas, Variety:

…(A)s the characters crisscross the city over the course of the day, their journey becomes an unforced but unmistakably political survey of three generations of independent womanhood in America. Like Tomlin herself, Elle was an out lesbian long before it was widely accepted, and her daughter, Judy, had Sage through an anonymous sperm donor. And now it is Sage’s turn to make a critical decision about her own body and the life of her unborn child — a decision, ‘Grandma’ unambiguously argues, it is hers and only hers to make.


Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice: “As Elle finds out, even when you think you know everything, there’s always more to learn.”

Selected Reviews

Bob Strauss, Los Angeles Daily News: “It’s a perfectly gay-positive, pro-reproductive rights, anti-economic inequality, almost entirely Bechdel Test-acing and otherwise impeccably progressive movie that always remembers correct thinking people can also be awful and funny and dumb.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times: “There is much to praise…:the way the script captures the speech patterns of the young, the old and the middle age; the way the story feels at once frantic and relaxed, as the two main characters race against the clock and meander through Los Angeles in Elle’s wheezy vintage car; the brief, memorable appearances from supporting performers like Judy Greer, Sam Elliott and Elizabeth Peña (in one of her last roles). But honestly, the wonder that is ‘Grandma’ can be summed up in two words: Lily Tomlin.”

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: “This is Tomlin’s movie, and she obliges with a spiky, refreshingly unvarnished performance.”

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.”

Jan 30

“Bossypants” By Tina Fey, Comic Chronicler of Everyday Problems

Tina Fey‘s bestselling book Bossypants (2011) was released this month in paperback. As described in one review: “Bossypants gets to the heart of why Tina Fey remains universally adored: she embodies the hectic, too-many-things-to-juggle lifestyle we all have, but instead of complaining about it, she can just laugh it off” (Kevin Nguyen,

Or, as Fey herself writes: “Because I am nothing if not an amazing businesswoman, I researched what kind of content makes for bestselling books. It turns out the answer is ‘one-night stands,’ drug addictions, and recipes. Here, we are out of luck. But I can offer you lurid tales of anxiety and cowardice.”

She says a number of things that I find quite relevant to self-growth and/or mental health issues. For example, on dealing with the childhood trauma of having her face slashed and permanently scarred by a stranger: “I accepted all the attention at face value and proceeded through life as if I really were extraordinary. I guess what I’m saying is, this has all been a wonderful misunderstanding.”

Other quotes from Bossypants on topics of interest:

“My ability to turn good news into anxiety is rivaled only by my ability to turn anxiety into chin acne.”

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

“There are no mistakes, only opportunities.”

“I keep my eyes on the sea, waiting to be rocketed into it on a wave of fire. I’ll be ready for it to happen and that way it won’t happen. It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.”

In 2010, Fey became only the third woman to ever win the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, arguably the biggest award a comedian in the U.S. can receive. The award, which has been given annually since 1998, was given to Whoopi Goldberg in 2001 and Lily Tomlin in 2003.

When she gave her acceptance speech at the Mark Twain event, she directed the following remarks to her parents in the audience: “They say that funny people often come from a difficult childhood or a troubled family. So to my family, I say, ‘They’re giving me the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor! What did you animals do to me???”

Here’s a watch-worthy clip from her speech:

Sep 27

Reality In Therapy: Who Gets to Decide What’s Real?

Reality in therapy. Reality as a concept comes up regularly in some people’s therapy—especially if either therapist or client has some doubts about the other’s sense of it.

There’s actually a whole form of therapy called reality therapy that places a lot of emphasis on choices being made in the here and now. You can see how some people could be turned off by that, though—maybe their present reality is what they’re trying to get away from.

But what exactly is reality and who really gets to decide? Philosophers have had a field day with this topic for ages, weighing in on such deeply complicated and competing ideas as anti-realism versus realism. I’m guessing it hasn’t all been figured out yet.

Many non-philosophers believe they’ve figured it out, though. They say that reality exists all over TV these days—on reality TV to be specific. These same believers, however, have probably never heard of editing—and how it in fact makes for a very strong dose not of reality, but of anti-reality.

Lily Tomlin is someone who’s been on TV for a long time. Maybe it’s her answer to the reality question that makes the most sense:

Reality is a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs.

But wait. Tomlin as “Trudy the Bag Lady” in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, a play written by Jane Wagner, is probably wiser than any of us:

I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore. After all, what is reality anyway? Nothin’ but a collective hunch. I made some studies: Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.

So who needs that?