Directed by Camille Hardman and Gary Lane, “Still Working 9 to 5” is everything you hope a documentary about the iconic 1980 comedy starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin will be. . . It’s powerful.
“9 to 5” stars the trio as three working women facing gender discrimination and sexual harassment at the hands of their boss, Frank Hart, whom they fantasize about killing. The film highlights serious abuses and inequality women in the workforce still face today over 40 years since the film’s release.
Clocking in at an hour and a half, “Still Working 9 to 5” explores the making of the classic film and its origins in the women’s movement and includes interviews with the incredible Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman, screenwriter Patricia Resnick, producer Bruce Gilbert, as well as Rita Moreno and Allison Janney who featured in television and Broadway adaptations of the film.
Viewers will revel in clips of the comedy classic while the cast and crew recount their memories of its production and significance at the time it was released. Alongside the interviews that reveal interesting facts about the film, such as how “9 to 5” was cast before it was even written and that Jane Fonda was at the core of the film’s inception, the documentary also features historical footage of some of the women’s rights protests that inspired Fonda.
The merging of the two—the reality of what it was like for women advocating on the front lines for women’s rights in the workplace with cinematic history about the making of the film based on some of the real experiences women were (and still are) experiencing is amazingly effective and keeps viewers captivated by the documentary’s trajectory and fascinated with its revelations.
Zoe Nicholson, Karen Nussbaum, Lilly Ledbetter, and Ellen Cassedy are a few of the activists that feature prominently in the film and are riveting to listen to. The devotion the documentary gives to their voices and the plight of women in different movements, including the more recent #MeToo movement, is profound and the filmmakers should be praised for the swath of what the film covers and never forgets that even though Parton, Fonda, and Tomlin are the stars of “9 to 5,” women are stars everyday in heroic fights big and small.
Now, you might wonder if you’ve never seen the 1980 film whether you’ll still enjoy the documentary.
It’s a valid concern as sometimes documentaries about films can feel ostracizing. We’ve been to that party, we get it. There’s a fine balance that has to be found that engages both those familiar with the classic, yet also embraces those who aren’t.
A good film should never isolate but draw everyone near.
“Still Working 9 to 5” has that magical balance.
Whether you’ve seen “9 to 5” multiple times or are a young person discovering Dolly’s music or learning about the women’s movement and Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for the first time and maybe haven’t had a chance to see the film, “Still Working 9 to 5” is a great opening door to the movie and the issues it depicts.
It’s a documentary that embraces you no matter whether you’ve seen the original yet or not.
Heck, even if you’ve seen the original a million times, after watching the documentary you’ll likely want to watch it again with fresh eyes and deeper appreciation.
Can we talk for a minute about how wonderful Dolly Parton is?
She’s marvelous in the documentary and provides great insight into her role as Doralee in the film and how she came on board under the condition she could write the “9 to 5” theme song, an anthem that would win her multiple Grammy Awards and an Academy Award nomination.
Here’s where things get even cooler.
At the end of “Still Working 9 to 5,” viewers are treated to a new exclusive duet of the song featuring Dolly and Kelly Clarkson.
It’s a beautiful soul-stirring rendition and, like the documentary itself, will have you reflecting on the progress that’s been made towards gender equality and the mountains still to climb and the glass ceilings bound to shatter sooner rather than later.
“Still Working 9 to 5” screens at Hot Docs April 29th, May 2, and May 7th. Online streaming of the film will also be available via Hot Docs for 5 days beginning April 30th. For more information, click here.