Still Working 9 to 5 gives us an insider look into the beloved classic while highlighting its legacy and importance today, 40 years later.
“Film is a way to throw light into dark corners,” we hear during one of the interviews in Still Working 9 to 5. As the documentary shows us, this is true for the 1980 film 9 to 5 which shed light on the realities of gender inequality in the workplace. It is also very much of a mission statement for this documentary itself, which wants to explore the legacy of its film and its relevance today. As the audience watches the film, the question comes naturally: did anything really change in these 40 years if the commentary 9 to 5 raises on gender inequality is still relevant today?
Still Working 9 to 5 uses the talking heads documentary style to reflect back on the production of the film it is inspired by, 9 to 5, a 1980 American comedy film directed and co-written by Colin Higgins. The film notably stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton as three overworked secretaries who want to get revenge on their boss, Dabney Coleman. All four main characters, along with co-writer Patricia Resnick and the director all come back in this documentary to discuss their perspective on the film, 40 years later. The movie also features many activists for women’s rights who discuss the feminist movement and the need for change at the time.
As a fan of the original film, I loved seeing more insight into the way it was made when watching Still Working 9 to 5. I also really like the way the film juxtaposed the interview segments with footage of the film. Not only does this make it visually more interesting, as the audience would otherwise only stare at the interviewees, but it also reminds us of everything we loved about the movie. Seeing clips of it proves once again how funny and groundbreaking 9 to 5 is. It also creates a good reference point for what the interviews discuss, especially when they reference specific scenes some of the spectators may not remember off the top of their heads.
Most importantly, Still Working 9 to 5 connects the film to the social context of when it was made, featuring footage of protests at the time and activists talking about the fight for women’s equality at the time. The very name of the film comes from an organization called 9 to 5 which would advocate for women’s rights and equality in the workplace. Putting the film in its historical context highlights how revolutionary it was at the time. It may not seem the case today, but featuring three female leads in a movie that focuses so heavily on women’s rights and gender discrimination in the workplace was very novel at the time.
It is also particularly interesting to see how the film and its social commentary are still relevant 40 years later. Still Working 9 to 5 reminds us that the fight for gender equality is far from over: things may have changed from the 1980s but the gender pay gap and discrimination in the workplace based on sex and race are still very much present. I also appreciated how the documentary did not shy away from discussing the Me Too movement with footage of feminist protests today, thus bringing the 1980s movie into the present. If 9 to 5 was once made to show “how biased the system is against women,” its argument sadly still stands today.
Still Working 9 to 5 does get a bit repetitive towards the end as it keeps following the same formula with interviews and footage from the film, or archival footage of the protests. While I loved the double focus of the film on activism and the making of 9 to 5 and I thought it made a lot of sense, it was also a little too confusing at first. As it keeps jumping back and forth between the two main plotlines, I felt like the focus of the documentary changed a little too often and abruptly.
Still Working 9 to 5 is a documentary I hope more people get to see, as there are many people in the audience who will see themselves in the themes discussed in the film, and feel moved by its call for equality and respect. Not only is it such a pleasure to hear Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, and Lily Tomlin discuss such an iconic film, but it also made my appreciation for 9 to 5, a movie I already loved, even bigger when I learned more about the context of its production.
Despite the support of Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, the many awards the film won at various festivals in 2022-2023, and its current 93% Rotten Tomatoes score, streamers have passed on Still Working 9 to 5, as after COVID hit, the documentary selling landscape changed. We’ll update this page if/when the film is picked up for distribution!