The classic 20th Century Fox comedy 9 to 5 is synonymous with its theme song by Dolly Parton, the two eternally linked and feeding one another. But what many fans of the 40-year-old film may not be as attuned to are the socioeconomic reasons it was made and the organization that gave the film its title. Still Working 9 to 5 is a documentary about the ongoing fight for gender equality in America, the events that inspired Jane Fonda to commission the film, its impact, and the ongoing worldwide quest to right an unjust wrong.
Opening with Dolly Parton’s upbeat and empowering worker’s anthem set to an energetic animated credit sequence, the documentary quickly introduces some of the key players of the story. Talking-head interviews are paired with an incredible amount of archival footage to help bring this story to life. Interviewees include stakeholders from the film (stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman; creative team members Bruce Gilbert, Patricia Resnick, Ann Roth, Nicholas Eliopoulos), members of the 9to5 organization that inspired the film (Karen Nussbaum, Ellen Cassedy, Lilly Ledbetter), and women of the movement like ERA activist Zoe Nicholson.
Still Working 9 to 5 is more educational than audiences were likely expecting, part making-of documentary about a beloved film, part exploration into the fight for equal rights, past, present, and future. There’s a wealth of content on display, entertaining viewers with anecdotes from the set of the film and behind-the-scenes footage and clips from deleted scenes. But ultimately, the goal of the film is to remind audiences that while we’ve come a long way on the fight for gender equality, there’s still a long way to go.
The film also chronicles the lasting legacy of 9 to 5, starting with a look at the sitcom spin-off that starred Rita Moreno, who is part of the conversation. From the 2009 musical, stars Allison Janney, Megan Hilty, and Stephanie J. Block join producer Bob Greenblatt and director Joe Mantello to talk about the stage adaptation, which debuted at the dawn of the #MeToo movement. This leads into the 2020 West End revival in London also take part in the conversation, adding an international component to the story and also helping to segue into a brief conversation about ethnic diversity and Jane Fonda’s original pitch for the film, which would’ve featured a more diverse group of women.
Like the classic film, Still Working 9 to 5 is full of charm and humor, but also touches on some serious topics. More direct with its approach, the “Still” in the title is transformed into a call to action for viewers, who ought to walk away from the experience feeling emboldened to help further the progress towards gender and racial equality around the world. It ultimately achieves its goal, telling the story of both the 9 to 5 film and the movement that gave birth to it, which continues to this day.
I give Still Working 9 to 5 4 out of 5 stars.
Still Working 9 to 5 premiered at SXSW and will continue to play at film festivals. The film is in search of a distributor and, given Disney’s ownership of the original film, Hulu would be lucky to have it. For more information, visit stillworking9to5.com.