9 to 5 (1980)

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Film and Plot Synopsis

Franklin Hart may be the most sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritically-bigoted boss on the planet. He constantly humiliates his female employees, downplays their input, and makes condescending remarks about them whenever possible. His top assistant, Violet, is long over his bullshit and she conspires with co-workers Doralee and Judy to kidnap Hart and trap him in his own house. Once they do that, they can assume control of his department.

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Nine to Five

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‘9 to 5’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
9 to 5 (1980) Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda) is a conservative 1970s homemaker whose husband has left her for a younger, cuter woman—his secretary. Now alone in the world, Judy gets a job as a secretary at Consolidated Companies, Inc where she too might meet the boss of her dreams. On her first day on the job, Judy meets her supervisor and trainer, Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), a sarcastic widow of four that’s worked for the company for 12 years but never promoted.

Violet introduces Judy to her sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot of a boss, Vice President Frank Hart (Dabney Coleman), whom Violet also trained once upon a time. One of Hart’s lies is that he is having an affair with his attractive and equally married secretary, Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton).

Violet’s been playing nice with Hart so he will promote her for an upcoming position opening up in like six weeks. When Hart promotes a man instead of her because he’s a man supporting a family, Violet becomes furious. As she tears into Hart, she lets it slip to Doralee that Hart’s been telling anyone who will listen that the two are having an affair. Violet then leaves to get drunk at a nearby bar. Doralee, now furious over Hart’s lies, tears into him. She too then leaves to get drunk at the same bar.

As this goes on, Judy learns that Hart has fired her coworker, Maria (Roxanna Bonilla-Giannini) for sharing with Judy how much money she makes; how much Hart makes, and how much the office snoop, Roz (Elizabeth Wilson) makes—violating the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 in the process.

Furious, Judy doesn’t tear into Hart, but does head to the nearby bar for a drink with the ladies. The three then bond back at Doralee’s place over some Maui Wowie and tall tales over how they would deal with Hart once and for all.

Judy would shoot him safari style and mount his head on the wall like a trophy. Doralee would hog tie him wild west style before roasting him like chestnuts on an open, and Violet would dress up as Snow White—but not Disney style because that’s copyrighted—and poison his coffee.

The next day, the ladies must have been hung over because Violet “accidentally” mistakes a box of rat poison for artificial sweetener and puts an unhealthy dose in Hart’s coffee. However, Hart doesn’t get the chance to drink it. Before he does, the locking mechanism on his reclining chair fails—again—and Hart hits his head on the credenza, knocking him out.

When Judy tells Violet that Doralee took Hart to the hospital, Violet realizes her mistake and thinks the poison caused Hart to black out. She and Judy high tail it to the hospital where they find Doralee. Just as they do, they overhear a doctor pronounce a man dead from poisoning in the same room Hart was wheeled into. However, it’s not Hart. He woke up and walked out another door because he refused to pay the outrageous fees our 1970’s American health care system charges.

With Violet thinking she killed Hart, she steals the dead body in the hall she believes to be Hart to prevent the corner from performing of an autopsy on the body. She then throws it in the back of her car as Judy and Doralee catch up to her.

The three ladies head down the street in a panic, arguing amongst one another before Violet crashes her car. The collision damages the driver side fender. Doralee goes to get a tire iron from the trunk to pop out the fender, and in the process finds the body isn’t Hart. So they return the body to the hospital and shove it in a wheelchair and stick the body in a bathroom. Oddly, this isn’t the first time the cleaning lady has found a dead body like this in the bathroom.

The next morning, the women are shocked to find Hart arrive for work as if nothing happened. They converse about it in the bathroom and learn from Doralee that Hart hit his head, but did it before he had a chance to drink the coffee. The three are relieved they got away with the shenanigans, but unknown to them, the office snoop, Roz, is hiding in a stall and taking notes of their entire conversation. She squeals all to Hart.

Before Doralee leaves for the day, Hart asks to talk to her in his office where he demands Doralee either have sex with him over the weekend or he will go to the police about the rat poison. Doralee balks at the ultimatum and when Hart refuses to hear her out, she hog ties him with a phone cord and stuffs a scarf in his mouth to shut him up. She then asks Judy to watch him while she gets Violet. Hart convinces Judy to loosen the cord, but when she does, he breaks loose. Judy takes Doralee’s gun out of her purse and shoots at him. At this point, all three women’s pot fantasy’s about taking Hart out have been acted out, but without success.

They hold Hart hostage at his large house where they can be alone since his wife, Missy (Marian Mercer), is out of the country on a cruise for two months. Violet gets some dirt on Hart that he’s been selling Consolidated’s inventory and pocketing the proceeds, and the ladies decide to use that to blackmail Hart into silence since that’s all he seems to know.

Violet asks corporate for a bunch of invoices which will prove her theory, but they won’t arrive for 4-6 weeks as the company is doing an upgrade to their computer systems. So they chain Hart in his bedroom M & M style and fake his appearance in the office—for weeks. Since nobody likes Hart, it’s an easy sell.

They take this opportunity to implement several programs in Hart’s name that are popular with the workers. Things like an in-office day care center, equal pay for men and women, flexible hours, and a job sharing program where employees work part time.

However, three days before the invoices arrive, Hart’s wife returns from her cruise. Once she frees him, Hart sends her to a hotel so that he can pretend to still be chained up while secretly buying back the inventory he sold.

The day the invoices arrive, Hart finds Doralee’s gun and takes her and Judy to the office where he sees all their changes… and disproves. Just as he’s about to report the three women to the police, the chairman of Consolidated’s board, Russell Tinsworthy (Sterling Hayden), arrives to meet Hart. He’s heard great things about Hart’s changes which have resulted in a 20% increase in productivity in six weeks. As a result, he promotes Hart to join him on a multiyear project in Brazil which Hart has no choice but accept. Unable to now report the ladies, Violet, Judy, and Doralee celebrate.

The film ends with an epilogue storyboard. Violet gets her promotion to vice president. Judy falls in love with and marries the Xerox sales rep, and Doralee leaves to become a country western singer. Poor Hart. A tribe of Amazons kidnap him and he is never heard from again.

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20th Century Fox released 9 to 5 on December 19, 1980. Colin Higgins directed the film starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton.

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