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Working Girl


August1991

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I like this movie because of its opening shot. It is one of the most striking of any film. The camera winds around the Statue of Liberty and then zooms into a Staten Island ferry with the World Trade Center in the background. The camera moves into the main character (Melanie Griffith) sitting on a ferry bench. This all happens to the sound of Carly Simon singing "Let the River Run". [Nowadays, they would have done this in post-production with CGI and created digitally a Citizen Kane shot through the window. But in 1988, they used a helicopter and awkwardly a crossfade to a studio shot of Griffiths. IMV, the 1988 version is much better.] The Statue of Liberty and the WTC are wonders to see, and a reminder of the greatness of America.

This movie has Kevin Spacey, Joan Cusack, Oliver Platt and Alec Baldwin as minor characters. (Spacey has a very short scene snorting cocaine in a NYC limo. Baldwin is a jerk.) At the time, these actors were unknown. It is remarkable to find a movie with unknown actors who later became otherwise famous/minor celebrities. Another older example is The Lords of Flatbush.

Mike Nichols, the husband of Diane Sawyer and once collaborator with Elaine May, directed this movie. I didn't like "Closer" or "Charlie Wilson's War" but whatever the film, Nichols has a firm hand on the plateau. Looking down the list of films that he has directed, starting with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" through "Wit", Nichols knows how to turn a good play into a good movie. Admirably, he's had his misses: Wolf and Catch-22 were IMV misses. Nichols got this one right.

Edited by August1991
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I'm not sure it's remarkable to find a movie with unknown actors who later became celebrities. I would assume every celebrity can easily be found as an unknown in an earlier film.

It can be remarkable to see a film with several unknowns, who all became stars. Certain directors seem to have a good line on who are the truly up-and-coming young stars of the day. Woody Allen used to be good at that too.

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It can be remarkable to see a film with several unknowns, who all became stars. Certain directors seem to have a good line on who are the truly up-and-coming young stars of the day. Woody Allen used to be good at that too.

That's true enough (and Woody Allen has quite a...taste...for fresh, young newcomers, no? :))

however, it doesn't apply to "Working Girl." August stated that it starred "unknown actors," but that's simply not accurate. It's true for Oliver Platt; but one unknown actor does not at all support his contention. The others were all career workhorse actors with plenty under their belts.

And Alec Baldwin, particularly, was already a very big star.

Edited by bloodyminded
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... however, it doesn't apply to "Working Girl." August stated that it starred "unknown actors," but that's simply not accurate. It's true for Oliver Platt; but one unknown actor does not at all support his contention. The others were all career workhorse actors with plenty under their belts.

And Alec Baldwin, particularly, was already a very big star.

I don't know what constitutes a "big star" but I don't think that Kevin Spacey was one when he made this movie. The idea occurred to me when I watched Working Girl and saw Alec Baldwin and wondered, "Is that Alec Baldwin?" He has a minor part that's not a cameo.
Certain directors seem to have a good line on who are the truly up-and-coming young stars of the day. Woody Allen used to be good at that too.
In the case of Woody Allen, I think rather that he has the pick of the litter. Many actors would like to work with him simply because, well, they're actors. They want to try it.

Perhaps in this sense, I think that it's sad that Mike Nichols doesn't have the same auteur reputation as Woody Allen or Hitchcock or Truffaut. It seems that Nichols is more like Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder. Someone unknown at the time but whose contribution has become understood later.

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Perhaps in this sense, I think that it's sad that Mike Nichols doesn't have the same auteur reputation as Woody Allen or Hitchcock or Truffaut. It seems that Nichols is more like Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder. Someone unknown at the time but whose contribution has become understood later.

Billy Wilder has some classic movies, and a few lost classics too.

Classics:

Sunset Boulevard

The Lost Weekend

Some Like It Hot

The Apartment

Double Indemnity

Lost Classics:

1-2-3

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

Five Graves to Cairo

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That's true enough (and Woody Allen has quite a...taste...for fresh, young newcomers, no? :))

however, it doesn't apply to "Working Girl." August stated that it starred "unknown actors," but that's simply not accurate. It's true for Oliver Platt; but one unknown actor does not at all support his contention. The others were all career workhorse actors with plenty under their belts.

And Alec Baldwin, particularly, was already a very big star.

Not at all. Alec Baldwin's list of credits prior to Working Girl contains a secondary role in Beetlejuice, a role as "the dead guy" in Married to the Mob, and some TV movies and soap operas.

Kevin Spacey's resume prior to Working Girl is extremely short and contains nothing of note. Nobody knew much about Kevin Spacey before The Usual Suspects.

Joan Cusack was a member of SNL before Working Girl, and of the three of them was probably the most recognizable. I have always liked Joan Cusack and have wondered why she never achieved a higher profile.

-k

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  • 1 month later...

I am embarrassed to admit that after thinking of my post and this movie, it dawned on me that the opening scene has a greater symbolism.

The camera first shows the Statue of Liberty, then the Manhatten skyline with the WTC and finally moves into a woman alone sitting in a Staten Island ferry - who subsequently exercises her freedom.

Too many people see the power/greatness of America as tall buildings, majestic skylines or raw military strength. These people see America as a dominating power. In fact, America's greatness is found in an individual's ability or freedom to choose.

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....Too many people see the power/greatness of America as tall buildings, majestic skylines or raw military strength. These people see America as a dominating power. In fact, America's greatness is found in an individual's ability or freedom to choose.

....but in fact the contribution of "tall buildings" and the steel production that made it possible is one of America's defining attributes and "choices". A practical elevator from Mr. Otis was nice too.

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....but in fact the contribution of "tall buildings" and the steel production that made it possible is one of America's defining attributes and "choices". A practical elevator from Mr. Otis was nice too.
Your point is well taken.

It is individuals who created the symbols of America's strength and greatness - e.g. the Statue of Liberty (gift from France, BTW), the WTC, Manhatten buildings. But that's true in every society. Individuals built the Pyramid of Cheops.

What is remarkable about America, and shown in the opening scene of this movie, is that an individual should not be afraid to seek an individual dream. IOW, America's greatness is founded on individual effort freely chosen.

Such an idea is anathema to socialists who want to harness individual effort in a collectivist effort of solidarity.

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Your point is well taken.

It is individuals who created the symbols of America's strength and greatness - e.g. the Statue of Liberty (gift from France, BTW), the WTC, Manhatten buildings. But that's true in every society. Individuals built the Pyramid of Cheops.

What is remarkable about America, and shown in the opening scene of this movie, is that an individual should not be afraid to seek an individual dream. IOW, America's greatness is founded on individual effort freely chosen.

Such an idea is anathema to socialists who want to harness individual effort in a collectivist effort of solidarity.

Who is this remarkable "individual" responsible for building, gifting, transporting and erecting the Statue of Liberty? He must be wicked strong.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Who is this remarkable "individual" responsible for building, gifting, transporting and erecting the Statue of Liberty? He must be wicked strong.
On February 18, 1879, the French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) earned US Patent #11,023 for a "Design for a Statue." This statue, "Liberty Enlightening the World," would become one of the most famous monuments of world history. At a dinner party in 1865, Bartholdi and his host, historian Edouard-René de Laboulaye, had conceived the idea of France giving the US a monument for its Centennial of 1876.
Link

But this is closer to what I have in mind:

"Liberty Enlightening the World," the official name for the statue, was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, but it took 21 years to be transformed from an idea to a copper and steel statue gracing New York City's harbor.
Link

Bartholdi is as forgotten today as the thousands (?) of workers who built the statue. Bloodyminded, life as we know it is lived as individuals and only individuals accomplish anything.

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But this is closer to what I have in mind:Link

Bartholdi is as forgotten today as the thousands (?) of workers who built the statue. Bloodyminded, life as we know it is lived as individuals and only individuals accomplish anything.

Well, sure...if you include the "thousands (?) of workers who built the statue"....individuals one and all...working together for a common goal.

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Well, sure...if you include the "thousands (?) of workers who built the statue"....individuals one and all...working together for a common goal.
Common goal?

Bloodyminded, I am tired of individual politicians/leftists/union leaders/syndicalistes/nationalistes all asking me to be solidaire.

How individuals work together to accomplish anything is a fundamental question of existence. But we live as indviduals, not collectively. We are born alone, and we die alone.

When Nationalists or Socialists or Unionists or other various Collectivists claim that we live in Solidarity, they are wrong. Except for twins, and even then, we are not born together. And except for catastrophe, we don't die alone. For most people, we are born, live and die all alone. We die alone because life is an affair of individuals.

How we deal with others while we are alive is another story. That is, I believe in co-operation but I would never surrender my individual choice to any claim of Existential Solidarity as if the Human Race were a Collective. We humans are not a collective. We live and enjoy life alone, as individuals.

----

To return to this OP, this movie makes plain that America allows individuals to be free. And the end result is a successful collective.

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Common goal?

Bloodyminded, I am tired of individual politicians/leftists/union leaders/syndicalistes/nationalistes all asking me to be solidaire.

How individuals work together to accomplish anything is a fundamental question of existence. But we live as indviduals, not collectively. We are born alone, and we die alone.

When Nationalists or Socialists or Unionists or other various Collectivists claim that we live in Solidarity, they are wrong. Except for twins, and even then, we are not born together. And except for catastrophe, we don't die alone. For most people, we are born, live and die all alone. We die alone because life is an affair of individuals.

How we deal with others while we are alive is another story. That is, I believe in co-operation but I would never surrender my individual choice to any claim of Existential Solidarity as if the Human Race were a Collective. We humans are not a collective. We live and enjoy life alone, as individuals.

----

To return to this OP, this movie makes plain that America allows individuals to be free. And the end result is a successful collective.

I get what you're saying, I really do, and i agree with much of it. human beings are certainly individuals, and even the most open and least secretive among us are still mysterious islands, to some degree.

However, we are also social animals. This is sheer biology, by the way.

and you;re right, that the achievements of individuals is crucial. But when you say it is everything (if that is what you're saying, which to be fair might be oversimplifying your view), thenit is worse than incorrect; it is a fundamentally flawed premise.

The individual can literally accomplish next to nothing without the human collective behind it in some way. That's not an indictment of the individualist ethos; it's just the way it is.

And no, we don't "live as individuals, not collectively." The beauty of the animal is that we do both, simultaneously...and the apparent contradiction is a large and important part of the genesis of art itself...maybe of human creativity entire.

Edited by bloodyminded
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