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Nine to Five (1980) - Plot Summary Poster

(1980)

Plot

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Summaries

  • Meet Franklin Hart ('Coleman'). The biggest 'sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot' boss on the planet. He thrills in taking advantage of his head female office staff; humiliating, downplaying, and condescending against them whenever conveniently possible, particularly his top assistant Violet ('Tomlin'). Long exhausted over his gruesome bullishness, Violet, alongside coworkers Doralee ('Parton') and Judy ('Fonda') comprise comical methods of "doing him in", when a freak incident occurs. They then manage to kidnap Hart and trap him in his own house, while assuming control of his department, and productivity leaps. But just how long can they keep him tied up?

  • Three female employees of a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot find a way to turn the tables on him.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • The film centers on the friendship between three women who work in the offices of a large corporation known as Consolidated Industries. Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda) is a naïve new employee whose husband Dick (Lawrence Pressman) recently left her for his secretary. On her first day, Judy meets Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), the supervisor of her department, and a longtime employee. Violet trains Judy and introduces her to the department executive, Franklin Hart, Jr. (Dabney Coleman), who immediately reveals himself to be arrogant and sexist. Judy soon learns that despite the fact that Violet has worked there for over 10 years, she has been passed over consistently for promotion and in fact has seniority over Hart. Violet also introduces Judy to the staff, including mail room clerk Eddie (Ray Vitte), alcoholic secretary Margaret Foster (Peggy Pope), and Roz Keith (Elizabeth Wilson), Hart's executive assistant.

    The third woman in the trio is Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton), Hart's personal secretary. Despite the fact that Doralee is happily married to a construction worker and part-time country-western singer named Dwayne (Jeffrey Douglas Thomas), and Hart is also married to a sweet but oblivious woman named Missy (Marian Mercer), Hart continually makes inappropriate advances toward Doralee, pushing her patience and tolerance to the limit. Hart has also been lying to his colleagues that he's been sleeping with Doralee, causing office gossip to go wild. The women in the office treat her rudely as a result, and initially Judy shuns Doralee's attempts to be friendly.

    Some time passes, and Violet is once again passed over for an important promotion, even though her ideas are good enough that Hart passes one off as his own and takes all the credit for it. When Violet protests to Hart that he passed her over for a promotion because she is a woman, Hart bluntly tells her that the company would rather have a man in the position, and Violet becomes enraged, storming off on her own, but not before she reveals to Doralee that her affair with Hart is common knowledge. Doralee, who has been confused and upset about the way she's treated by her coworkers, snaps, and also rages at Hart, threatening to use her gun on him the next time he makes an indecent proposal.

    Angry and upset by Doralee's outburst, Hart takes it out by firing Maria (Roxanna Bonilla-Giannini), a dedicated employee (due to an infraction overheard by Roz, who had been eavesdropping in the ladies' room). After witnessing the incident, Judy joins Violet and Doralee in storming out of the office.

    The three women converge at a local bar to drown their sorrows, when Violet discovers a marijuana cigarette that her son left in her purse as a gift. They return to Doralee's house and smoke it together, prompting each of them to have a detailed fantasy about how they would take down Hart if they had the chance.

    Judy imagines a scenario where she's a great white hunter who hunts down Hart in the office with a shotgun.

    Doralee's fantasy is of her as a cowgirl who turns the tables on Hart and sexually harasses him before roasting him alive on a spit.

    Violet envisions a fairy tale where she is a Snow White-type character who poisons Hart's coffee and sends him falling to his death from his office window, which suddenly releases scores of oppressed "prisoners" chained to their desks.

    Things take a sudden bizarre turn the next day when each of the women's fantasies comes true in some odd respect: Violet accidentally poisons Hart's coffee, having mistaken a box of rat poison for artificial sweetener. Before Hart can drink it, he falls from his unstable chair and knocks himself unconscious on his credenza desk in his office. Doralee finds him, summons an ambulance, and accompanies him to the hospital.

    At first the women have no clue what happened to Mr. Hart, but then Violet finds the rat poison, realizes what she did, and they all assume the reason Hart blacked out was because he drank the poisoned coffee. At the hospital, Hart, who has regained consciousness, leaves on his own without being seen, and the three women mistake a dead police witness for their boss, steal the dead body (to prevent an autopsy), stash it in the trunk, and drive off. After they get into a minor car accident, they discover they've stolen the wrong body, so they smuggle it back into the hospital. After shaking off a suspicious police officer, the three women dispose of the body by taking it back to the hospital and leaving it in a wheelchair in a restroom.

    The next day, they discover that Hart wasn't harmed at all, but their discussion about the incident is overheard by Roz. At the end of the day, Hart tries to use the information to blackmail Doralee into having an affair with him after all. Doralee loses her temper and ropes Hart with telephone wires when he threatens to call the police (just like in her fantasy), and Judy fires on Hart with Doralee's pistol when he persuades her to untie him (similar to her fantasy).

    With Hart's wife away on a lengthy cruise, the women decide to kidnap Hart and imprison him in his own home until they can somehow get him to cooperate and forget the whole incident. But the cold and misogynist Hart refuses to listen to them and vows to kill them. Looking for a way to blackmail Hart to keep quiet, Violet discovers that Hart has been embezzling money from Consolidated by illegally selling inventory from a company-owned warehouse and keeping the profits. The women plan on using the information to blackmail Hart to keep him from calling the police.

    After purchasing a series of items, including a skydiving harness, chains, dog collars, and a remote-controlled garage-door opener to keep Hart confined in his own house, the women return to work after the weekend as usual while Violet sends for an order of the warehouse inventories as proof of Hart's embezzlement scheme. She soon learns from the head office in New York City that, because of a computer system change, the office will not send them the invoices for between four to six weeks.

    From this point on, a race is on to see if Hart can escape or if Violet's documented proof of the scam will arrive in time. The three women work together to make Hart's absence in the office as inconspicuous as possible: flexible work hours, equal pay for male and female employees, a job-sharing program, and even an onsite daycare center for employees with children. Hart's so hated around the office (by male and female employees alike) that the only person to question his absence is Roz, whom Violet sends away to Europe for a multi-week training program to learn a foreign language. Hart's archaic and oppressive rules are done away with, employee morale improves greatly and productivity improves as well.

    One night, Hart almost escapes when he finds a nail file in the bathroom that his captors overlooked and tries cutting his restraints. Using the restraining system they'd installed in Hart's bedroom, Judy is able to render him helpless while he hangs from the ceiling. Judy is further surprised when her ex-husband, Dick, shows up at Hart's house after following her there and asks to reconcile with her. But when Hart makes a noise, Judy is forced to restrain him, and seeing the captive Hart tied up, her ex-husband mistakenly assumes that Judy is having an affair with her boss and leaves, claiming that they are now over and will never get back together.

    Later, Hart is accidentally freed when Missy returns early from her cruise, and for three days, he quietly buys back all the items he sold and puts them back in the Consolidated warehouse. Doralee only learns about Missy's return when Missy calls her to thank her for her sending her flowers in Hart's name, which is why she returned from her vacation early. Doralee hurries to Hart's house to find the freed Hart now holding Judy captive.

    After taking them to the office to meet with Violet, Hart plays his final card, boasting that women never can defeat him. Just when it appears as if he is going to send the women to jail, a sudden visit from the reclusive and ruthless Chair of the Board, Russell Tinsworthy (Sterling Hayden), interrupts him. To the cold and unfeeling Hart's chagrin, he finally sees that Violet, Judy, and Doralee have made some radical changes in the office during his captivity, and the sudden surge in productivity has caught Tinsworthy's attention. Where Hart had bristled at the changes in the office -- job-sharing, flexible hours, new, disabled employees working alongside veteran ones, a drying-out program for alcoholic workers (Margaret Foster's no longer an alcoholic, thanks to the company's alcohol rehab program, and Maria's back with the company on a part-time basis and sharing her workload with another employee) -- Tinsworthy congratulates Hart for the increased morale.

    Since the women did all of it under the false approval of Hart, they can take no credit for it, but fate seems to be on their side: Tinsworthy "rewards" Hart for his good work by immediately removing him from his position and sending him to work on a special project in Brazil, much to the amusement and delight of Violet, Doralee, and Judy, as now they are free from Hart, who will never try to destroy them without destroying his own career.

    In the final scene, Roz returns from her training and is stunned to discover Violet, Judy, and Doralee celebrating in Hart's office.

    In a postscript at the end, it is revealed that Violet took Hart's place as vice president of Consolidated, Judy married the Xerox technician and quit the company, Doralee also quit the company and moved back to her Tennessee hometown, where she became a country music singer (just like the actress that played her), and Hart was kidnapped by natives during a trip in the Amazon and was never seen or heard from again.

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