Movie Review

Nine to Five

Getting even is a full-time job.
Nine to Five Movie Poster

US Release Date: 12-19-1980

Directed by: Colin Higgins


  • Jane Fonda
  • Judy Bernly
  • Lily Tomlin
  • Violet Newstead
  • Dolly Parton
  • Doralee Rhodes
  • Dabney Coleman
  • Franklin M. Hart Jr.
  • Sterling Hayden
  • Russell Tinsworthy
  • Elizabeth Wilson
  • Roz Keith
  • Henry Jones
  • Mr. Hinkle
  • Lawrence Pressman
  • Dick Bernly
  • Marian Mercer
  • Missy Hart
  • Renn Woods
  • Barbara
  • Norma Donaldson
  • Betty
  • Roxanna Bonilla-Giannini
  • Maria Delgado
  • Peggy Pope
  • Margaret Foster
  • Richard Stahl
  • Meade
  • Ray Vitte
  • Eddie Smith
  • Edward Marshall
  • Bob Enright
  • Alan Haufrect
  • Chuck Strell
  • Earl Boen
  • Mr. Perkins
  • Jeffrey Douglas Thomas
  • Dwayne Rhodes
  • Tom Tarpey
  • Norman Lane
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: March 17th, 2016
Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5

Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5

Although Nine to Five was made in 1980, it feels more like a movie from the 1930s, 40s or 50s. You could easily replace the three leads with classic stars of yesteryear. I see Lily Tomlin's part being played by Rosalind Russell or Loretta Young. Carole Lombard or Ginger Rogers, who always made a nice frazzled ditz, could have done wonders with Jane Fonda's part. As for the Dolly Parton role, the only worthy names are Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe.

The movie begins with Judy (Fonda), a recently divorced woman reentering the work force as a secretary in a pool of women who all answer to Mr. Hart (Dabney Coleman), their chauvinist boss. She is put under the wing of Violet, (Tomlin) who pretty much runs the place and knows it better than anyone. She is up for a promotion and thus puts up with Mr. Harts crap. Doralee (Parton) plays Mr. Hart's personal secretary, whom all of the other girls think he is having an affair with.

The girls get angry with Mr. Hart after he gives Violet's promotion to a man with less seniority, humiliates and belittles Judy, and Doralee discovers that Hart started and spread the rumor of their alleged affair. I do not see how that surprised her, considering he makes passes at her all the time, chasing her around his office with lust in his eyes and a leer on his lips. He even once took her with him on an overnight business trip that turned out to be just an excuse to get her into a hotel.

Nothing creates a friendship faster than a common enemy. Before you know it, the three girls are bonding over drinks and marijuana, that Violet proudly brags came from her underaged son. Doralee suggests of Mr. Hart, "Well, I say we hire a couple'a wranglers to go upstairs and beat the shit out of him." That night, they each have a dream about how they would like to get back at Mr. Hart. The next day, Violet believes her dream came true when she thinks she has poisoned him. This leads to the ladies stealing a corpse from a morgue and variations of Judy's and Doralee's fantasies coming true.

Eventually the three women feel compelled to abduct Mr. Hart and keep him tied up in his home. They then begin to run the office as they see fit, telling people that Mr. Hart is around but they just missed him. Violet makes all the decisions, including relaxing the office rules, while Doralee forges his signature on all of the paper work. Morale in the office increases as does productivity because everyone knows that people work harder when there is no one around to hold them accountable. Yeah, right!

Lily Tomlin plays the movies straight (wo)man. This is best exemplified in the scene where they discover that they stole the wrong body. After Judy whines, "Oh, this is terrible. It's so improper. It's so disrespectful" Violet attempts to calm her with . "He's dead! He doesn't mind!" Doralee then complains, "That's just great! We just waltz into the hospital and say, "We're sorry, we made a mistake." Well, maybe they'll give us Hart's body in exchange!" To which Violet comments, "There is no need to get sarcastic!"

Jane Fonda does not fair as well. She seems to be over acting as the clueless Judy. She is much better in the dramatic scenes where she deals with her ex-husband. Worth noting is that Fonda's Judy was clearly the inspiration for Dustin Hoffman's Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie (1982). He wore a wig and glasses that matched hers.

This was Dolly Parton's film debut and she steals nearly every scene she appears in. She looks good and her accent makes her as charming as they come. When she yells at Coleman, "If you ever say another word about me or make another indecent proposal, I'm gonna get that gun of mine, and I'm gonna change you from a rooster to a hen with one shot! And don't think I can't do it." you take the threat seriously all the while admiring how sweet she sounds saying it.

The sexism on display here certainly dates this film to the last century. Today, all these ladies would have to do is go to their Human Resources department and send Mr. Hart packing but that would not be half as fun as this movie.Nine to Five was made in a time when men could compliment a woman's looks in the work place and women could get away with kidnapping the boss.

Reviewed on: April 12th, 2016
Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda in Nine to Five.

Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda in Nine to Five.

Even in 1980 the sexism on display in Nine to Five was outdated and exaggerated for humor's sake. This is a feminist fantasy as farce played large by the entire cast. The three main stars do great work but the supporting players are all also quite wonderful. After this role, Dabney Coleman would make a career out of playing “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigots”. Eric mentioned Tootsie and Coleman would play a very similar character in that Dustin Hoffman classic.

Dolly Parton, in her movie debut, does indeed steal many scenes. This more zaftig Dolly is the one I grew up on and I remember her fondly. The title track, which she penned and sang, became a huge crossover hit climbing all the way to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts. It remains a Karaoke classic to this day.

Lily Tomlin is not only a comic genius, she's the only true comedienne in the group. Her fantasy sequence (with her as Snow White surrounded by animated forest creatures) is my favorite one. Her little facial expressions and manner of skipping about the office is truly hilarious.

Dolly's personality allows her to be naturally funny whereas Jane Fonda has to “act” funny. I agree with Eric that she gives the least satisfying performance by one of the lead actresses. But at least half of that problem is caused by the script. The scene where the copy machine malfunctions should have been cut. It's straight out of an I Love Lucy episode. It's painful to watch as Fonda attempts to play befuddled. And then when Dabney Coleman walks over and simply hits the off button it almost comes across as an argument against women's equality. I mean nobody's that stupid.

Nevertheless, Nine to Five was a huge hit in 1980 and it remains a bona fide comedy classic!

Reviewed on: April 14th, 2016
Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman in Nine to Five.

Dolly Parton and Dabney Coleman in Nine to Five.

I felt a little nostalgia while watching this movie, since I can remember enjoying it numerous times on HBO during the early 1980s, but felt less actual enjoyment than either of my two brothers. It's a very dated film, not only because of the fashions and the overt sexism, but because of the humor, which is very broad, as Patrick noted. The three leads, especially Tomlin and Parton, give it their all and where it remains entertaining is almost entirely because of them.

As my brothers noted, Fonda, while arguably the bigger name of the three, is the least effective, but the idea for the film was her's and it was produced by her production company. It was originally planned as a drama, but the first draft of the script reportedly came across as too preachy and so it was decided to turn it into a comedy. When director Colin Higgins came on-board, he refined the script further, and in the editing of the film, even more soapbox moments were removed.

It was Fonda who cast her co-stars, having expressed a long held desire to work with Tomlin. As the only comedian of the trio, Tomlin more than holds her own, but it was the casting of country singer Dolly Parton as Doralee that was the real stroke of genius. Both my brothers mentioned how she steals nearly every scene, but I'd go further and say that she walks away with the entire movie. Some people are just born with natural charisma and Parton is one of them. Her homespun persona makes her charming and every one of her lines even funnier than written. She's not the type of actress who has great range, but in a character like this she's a natural.

One of the most interesting aspects to me was seeing how much office technology has changed in the more than 35 years since this film was made. There's not a computer in sight and the Xerox copy machine is played for laughs and is the size of a small car. This makes sense of course, since before e-mail every memo needed to be printed, copied, and hand delivered. Part of the film's climax involves waiting for some invoices to be delivered from the head office and it's supposed to take up to 6 weeks to receive them, when today they would undoubtedly be retrievable in seconds via computer.

The comedy is rather spotty and feels as dated as Fonda's hair. I groaned as much as I laughed. It picks up steam once the trio become convinced that they've killed their boss. The corpse stealing sequence is probably the film's best scene and certainly the funniest. And the kidnapping of Mr. Hart is the most outlandish plot device, but also provides some laughs.

Apparently there was talk for years of a sequel, but with all three of the leads north of 70, it seems the moment may have passed ("It's called '9 to 5', not 95", said Dolly when asked about the possibility). However, this being Hollywood, rumors of a remake have been swirling and from an unlikely source. Will Smith now owns the rights and has been talking about a sequel starring his wife Jada.

Related Review