Sunday, April 10, 2005

Stephen Schiff

“…. Putting Fonda, Tomlin, and Parton together must be one of the most appealing casting ideas since Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable heated up How to Marry a Millionaire. And it works. Fonda plays straight man (or is that straight person?) to Tomlin's comic: Fonda asks the dumb questions while Tomlin dispatches the nasty one-liners. And then in walks Parton, a wonderful, swaying cartoon of feminity.

“…. But there is also Lily Tomlin, a superb comic actress who sheds a glow that nearly obscures this movie's shortcomings. As Violet, Tomlin manages to turn secretarial competence into a higher virtue: you can see her mentally filing each successive disaster, sending memos from one part of her brain to another, tackling an emergency and putting the next one on hold. It's a terrific performance: the controlled craziness in Tomlin's eyes reflects the absurdity that every secretary faces in every office in the world.”

Stephen Schiff
Boston Phoenix, Dec. 23, 1980

Pauline Kael

“[As Pat in The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Lily Tomlin is] more spontaneous… than she has been on the screen before….

“Lily Tomlin looks much more angular in Nine to Five. Her deadpan straight shooter performance, with the character's feelings coming out in precise, venomous inflections, is like an extended version of one of her TV skits; still, it is shaded enough to give some comic distinction to this piece of strong-arm whimsy, directed by Colin Higgins… Lily Tomlin plays a smart, efficient office worker who is passed over for promotion while men she has trained move up, and at times you could swear that you saw the clicking of her mind in her slitted eyes. (They glitter in one brief scene, and there's genuine wit in the sparks she gives off.)….”

Pauline Kael
New Yorker, March 9, 1981

David Denby

“For a while, I had high hopes for the women's lib office comedy Nine to Five. Screenwriters Colin Higgins and Patricia Resnick… assemble the three principals quickly, and they make a pleasing trio…. Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda)… is shown the ropes by Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), a shrewd, tough, competent office veteran and mother of three who has grown weary watching untalented men being promotod over her. Fonda can't make much of her role, but Tomlin is in top form, narrowing her eyes viciously when the boss makes that demeaning little request, "Make me a cup of coffee. Quick. Okay?" But more appealing than either of these pros is spunky Dolly Parton….”

David Denby
New York, December 22, 1980

Molly Haskell

“Nine to Five is the biggest disappointment [among The Competition and Altered States], because it unites a promising idea—revolt among the secretaries—with a powerhouse of talent in the front lines. If Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton can’t light a fire under the collective arse of upper management, who can? Trouble is, their target is not the corporate elite, but a punier one: a pompous, middle-management desperado… Funny as [Dabney] Colemen is, his character is hardly worth the ammunition expended on him.

“The hilarious opening scene contains intimations of what might have been. We and neophyte secretary Jane Fonda are introduced to the scene at Amalgamated, Inc. through the jaundiced eyes and squashed hopes of veteran office worker Lily Tomlin. In a voice rustling with the acid of twelve years of office intrigue, Tomlin says of boss Coleman, “He used to be a trainee… I trained him!” And when snippy section manager Elizabeth Wilson gives her yet another memo on desk decorum, she cracks, “I know just where to stick it.” The tension between Tomlin and Fonda, and between both of them and Parton as the voluptuous boss’s pet, seems both funnier and more accurate than the instant camaraderie that develops when they smoke a joint, and share fantasies of murdering the boss.

“…. Even in more sensitive hands, or with a better screenplay…, I suspect the three stars would not have meshed into a team…. In the space between [Fonda] and [her] character there is the sort of condescension one never feels in Tomlin’s white-collar weirdos, the switchboard operators and spinsters whose tics and obsessionis she registers with such affectionate bite.

“If Tomlin’s spirit had prevailed, we might have had a comedy with some sting instead of one whose idea of feminist victory is to turn the office into something resembling a Castro Convertible showroom….”

Molly Haskell
Playgirl, April 1981

Newsweek--ansen or kroll?

“Jane Fonda. Lily Tomlin. Dolly Parton. If Oscars were given for the casting coup of the year, 9 to 5 would win hands down. Demographically speaking, those three names constitute a star-studded net from which no prospective moviegoer can be expected to escape….

“…. Tomlin is the super-efficient veteran who keeps getting passed up for promotion….

“…. [W]hile [Higgins] is struggling to get his jerry-built comedy to the finishline, Tomlin is adroitly--and mercifully--stealing all available scenes with a deadpan delivery that puts a surreal spin on her commonsensical character. ("I'm no fool," she says during the rat-poison episode. "I've killed the boss. You think they're not going to fire me for a thing like that?" Tomlin also gets the best fantasy--a Disneyesque cartoon in which she appears dressed like Snow White, dispensing death with a magic wand….”

Newsweek, December 22, 1980