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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame: Working Girl

Submitted by on December 11, 2015 – 8:05 AM22 Comments
20th Century Fox

20th Century Fox

A head for business and a nom for sin.

Today's nomination comes from Stephanie, who's got a '90s-poppies classic for us to consider: Working Girl. Take it away, Stephanie!

  • lengthy? 113 minutes, so a comfy 2.5 hours on TV.
  • familiar/frequent? It's always on cable.
  • classic/award-winner? Nominated for a bunch of Academy Awards but not a "classic" by most people's standards. ["Carly Simon won an Oscar AND a Grammy for 'Let The River Run,' which was ubiquitous on the radio at that time." — SDB]
  • "Greetings, Professor Falken" (big payoff/long-shot victory a la WarGames)? This is where Working Girl really shines. The last 15 minutes of the movie is all about the payoff. Tess beats Katharine at her own game, wins back Jack Trainer, and gets the job she's been chasing the whole movie. And then when she calls Cyn from her office and Joan Cusack does that big yell, and "Let The River Run" kicks in? Gets me every time.
  • "Wanna have a catch?" (Pavlovian tear-jerk; anything with dads opens the ducts for this guy)? Not a tear-jerker.
  • quote-fest? This is all Cyn but a few other characters do get a few choice quotes in there too. "It's not even leather!" "I have a head for business and a bod for sin." "Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn't make me Madonna." "Bony ass." "Valium. In the convenient economy size. It just chills you ever so slightly."
  • caper-ish or -adjacent camaraderie? Everything after Tess realizes that Katharine stole her idea is an awesome caper, especially the scene in Katharine's apartment where Tess is hiding from Jack. Plus, the last scene where Tess mistakes Amy Aquino for her secretary, love it.
  • "forget you, melon farmer" (you own it, but will still watch bowdlerized TV verzh) Absolutely

And Stephanie added a category, "Special Considerations," noting that "You gotta love a movie with a makeover scene!"

Well argued, Stephanie; thanks for the submish! I have one tiny quibble with Stephanie's case, namely that compared to 10-15 years ago it's really not on cable that much…but if it were, I would probably stop to watch it. This is not even my favorite movie in this "blue-collar/young blonde steps up for, then outdoes bitch boss (who in retrospect is kind of rad)" — that would be Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead, coming soon to a PFM nomination stool near you — but it's pretty great, and if I saw it on the guide this morning, I'd put it on while writing up the PTV gift guide.

I have a feeling this one will sail into its own office without much argument, but let's find out. Readers?

[Update 9/23/26: Corner office bay-beeeeeee!]

The Poppy-Fields Movie Couch Of Fame is here. To nominate your own PFM, email bunting at tomatonation dot com with a rundown of the criteria and your argument for why it deserves a cushion. If I use your entry, free loot shall be thine.

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  • mary says:

    Not a favorite of mine. MG's helium-esque voice grates. But I appreciate it for the many 'before they were stars' actor sightings:
    Alec Baldwin as the cheating b.f.
    Kevin Spacey as the perv in the limo "Party on Bob!)
    and Oliver Platt as the trader who Tess embarrasses (which gets her fired and lands her the gig with Sigourney)

  • CT says:

    Loves it.
    Harrison Ford at his lightest and most delightful!

  • StatMom says:

    Yep! This is another one that is so obviously a PFM that I can't believe it's not already there. I stop and watch every time I see it. Also bonus points for the cutting edge computer hardware/software. I believe it was "Shift-s" to get your schedule.

  • LaSalleUGirl says:

    I JUST realized while reading this that, whenever I'm considering a brilliant-but-non-obvious connection, I think, "I was like, 'Trask. Radio. Trask. Radio!'"

    So, enthusiastic yes to this, is what I'm saying.

  • It's actually been on pay cable a lot recently (forget which channel, though). And my favorite part of the movie is when Jack comes to Tess' "office" after she passed out on him and after their meeting. First, when she asks what happened, and he says in the perfect deadpan tone, "The earth moved."; then, a bit later, when he admits nothing happened and explains why she was undressed, she asks if anything else happened, and he admits, "I might have peaked." I miss when Harrison Ford was willing to play comedy. Plus, the movie has one of my favorite character actors, Philip Bosco, as the head of the company Tess wants to arrange the buyout for.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I really like "Let The River Run." Just, non-ironically. It's inspiring, okay?

    And I love the part where Tess tells her new secretary that she doesn't expect her to get coffee unless she's also getting some for herself. For me that was the quintessential "don't forget where you came from" moment.

  • attica says:

    "Mr. & Mrs. Fabulously Happy!"

    I love SigWeav in this.

  • Jaybird says:

    I always have loved this and always will love it, largely because of Harrison Ford, and because, having dealt with monumentally cliquish, bitchy bosses myself, it's wonderful to see Tess outsmart a bitch and then refuse to become one even though she could.

    The single most annoying thing: MG's voice, as noted above. Especially in the cab when potchkied, and in the ladies' during the Trask's daughter's wedding bit. "Like Paradise with little gold palm trees" sounds even twee-er, coming from her. And I could have done with more satisfying revenge wrought upon Baldwin's character, but maybe letting him and the skank have each other was vengeance enough.

    Still watching, though.

  • Beth says:

    Definitely, I will watch this EVERY time I run across it. But I feel like I should rent it, or stream it, just to see what TV cuts out.

  • Shannon says:

    Yes yes yes! Love this one, had it on vhs until my husband made me get rid of all of my tapes. Best payoff/revenge scene ever. In high school my drama coach had me watch it to copy Cyn's accent when I was playing a hairdresser. (And don't forget David Duchovny for about one second during the surprise party!)

  • John Ramos says:

    "Whaddya need speech class for? You tawk fine!"

    Also the bit of business with Signourney skiing always kills me.

  • kensey says:

    Oh absolutely this is poppy fields material.

    "If you want a different answer, ask a different girl," has been a go-to line for almost every occasion: dating, work, family…

    Love this movie, will watch any time, anywhere, starting at any point, and Jack is my dream man.

  • Lisa says:

    Actually, in the last scene, Tess mistakes Amy Aquino for her boss, and thinks that she (Tess) is still a secretary.

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    I freaking love this movie and will watch it every time.

    Much like the "Trask! Radio!" person above, I am quoting Joan Cusack's hilarious delivery every time I say "Live and learn." (…although I don't have Cyn's awesome accent.)

    My sister loves the "MORE stolen files?" line, and will go on a 10-minute diatribe about how Tess likely would have let a lot of things go if Katharine hadn't un-wisely decided to twist the knife right there.

    I also love "Coffee? Tea? Me?" and its counterpart, "Coffee? Tea? …" **head shake**

    And I, also, warble un-ironically along with Let The River Run.

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    Heeeee, "The earth moved. The angels wept." **gropes pockets** "The Polaroids…are in my other coat."


    "That … slut! … BITCH! … SECRETARY!!!"

    Yep, I think I'm on board with this one as a PFM.

  • Nancy says:

    Love it! Brought the video to the hairdresser and my hair cut like MG (after the makeover :-). I own it and I will always watch it whenever it comes on. The only HF rom-com I have ever been completely happy with.

  • Lucy says:

    A definite PFM for me. I will always watch it when it's on, even though I own it on DVD (and somewhere on dusty VHS).

    Cyn's quotes (and eyeshadow) are hilarious but I also love Catherine's "I've indicated I'm receptive to an offer. I've cleared the month of June. And I am, after all, me." Also, in my line of work I get a lot of mileage out of "Today's junior prick, tomorrow's senior partner."

    To this day I love that sparkly dress Tess wears when she first meets Jack and would still buy it.

  • Jen S. 2.0 says:

    Ha, I also get a lot of mileage out of "…and I am, after all, ME."

    I went to read the IMDB background on this movie and guffawed at someone's note that Joan Cusack's hair and makeup in Working Girl deserve their own separate acting credit, and possibly a few award nominations. Too true.

  • Ann_Margrock says:

    I'm pretty sure I would be sucked in if I ran across this movie on TV, but not because of MG. I've never really liked her.
    However, everything else is a good deal.
    Harrison Ford in a non-Star Wars or non-Indiana Jones movie is great. Sigourney Weaver as an over-the-top bitch – terrific. A few of my TV/movie boyfriends for good measure: Philip Bosco and Oliver Platt. Amy Aquino! Love her! All good things…yeah, I'm settin' a spell with my feet up.
    Oh, and two words. Joan. Cusack.
    (Why don't we see more of her?)

  • FelisD says:

    This has my vote! I haven't watched it in ages, but I would if I found it on TV. Plus, it hasn't really left me from the ages ago when I did watch it. I still remember the quote, "I'm not steak! You can't just order me!" And I still remember involuntarily shouting the word "BITCH!" when Sigourney Weaver's character made a play for sympathy with her broken leg.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    …Yeah, we're good here.

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