June's theme for Cinema Tuesdays is The Art of One-Upmanship.
For those of you who don't know what that is, one-upmanship is a theory by Stephen Potter, put forward in his satirical self-help books and demonstrated on film by Ian Carmichael in School for Scoundrels. The point of one-upmanship is to view life as being a game and that "if you're not one-up, you're one-down". One-upmanship is the practice of successively outdoing a competitor by way of creative intimidation in order to make competitors and associates feel inferior and thereby gaining the status of being one-up on them.
Think of it as being similar to getting even or taking revenge, but with a greater chance of being successful since one-upmanship relies on keeping a cool head and carefully planning rather then acting rashly and spontaneously.
Jane Fonda plays Judy, a recently divorced housewife who's never worked before. This is her first day as a secretary. Since the Seventies were a major revival decade, Judy dresses in Thirties style working girl outfits. I'm also classifying Nine to Five as being Seventies style even though it's from 1980 because all of the outfits and hair are still left over from the Seventies and there aren't any real Eighties fashion in the film.
Lily Tomlin plays Violet, a widow and mother who's been a supervisor in the company for years. She keeps getting passed over for a promotion in favour of men with less seniority that she's trained because she's a woman and boy, is she mad about that!
Violet dresses in Forties style career girl outfits.
Dolly Parton (in her first movie) plays Doralee, the boss's secretary. She's happily married and dresses Fifties style, for obvious reasons.
Violet has to train Judy and show her the ropes of working in a modern office, like using the photocopier, the multiline telephone and how to deal with the office bitch/snitch Roz. Every workplace has a Roz who just ruins the day for everyone else.
This is Frank Hart, the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot. He recently became Vice President, despite being trained by Violet. He doesn't do much around the office, aside from banning any personal effects on his employees' desks, chasing Doralee around the desk and stealing Violet's ideas.
Despite being under paid and running the office for Hart, Violet is still expected to fetch his coffee since Hart views all women as being "dumb broads"
After a night out drinking and smoking pot, the three friends reveal their fantasies about getting rid of mean Mr. Hart.
Judy would like to revive her Cat Ballou character.
Doralee wants to show off her Southern hospitality.
Whereas Violet's is the funniest, involving a cute, but gruesome Disney movie.
But then a mix up involving rat poison and a stolen corpse lead to Hart leaping to the erroneous conclusion that the girls are trying to kill him.
What are they going to do?
Simple, tie him up for six weeks until they can get some reports sent over from New York and prove to the Board that he's been embezzling before he can have them arrested for kidnapping and attempted murder.
In the mean time, they'll improve the office by implementing changes to improve the lives of their fellow employees, like a day care centre, part time work, flexible hours, equal pay and brighter colours. You know, making the office habitable for humans.
Do they succeed? Of course they do, but only sort of.