Friday, October 11, 2013

An Old Fashioned Ladies' Pot Party in "9 to 5"

I just re-viewed 9 to 5 (1980), the classic film with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, and had to write about it.

First, I was struck by the scene with Tomlin as Violet with her teenage son, when she's stressing about getting a promotion at her job from her sexist boss. It goes like this:

"Mom, you've got to relax. I'm gonna roll you a joint."

"Josh, you know how I feel about that. Besides your grandmother would pitch a fit if she even hears you mention the word marijuana." 

"She doesn't understand moderation. You're the one who keeps saying harm springs from excess. I'm talking about one joint." 

Wise messages about moderation coming from the younger generation, as taught (properly) by an elder.

Tomlin's character takes the joint, and proffers it to her colleagues played by Fonda and Parton, telling them, "We could have ourselves an old fashioned ladies' pot party." Fonda plays an innocent, recent divorcée who pronounces it "really good pot" after the gigglefest that follows.

It's a scene that harkens back to Easy Rider (1969) in which her brother Peter turns on the innocent Jack Nicholson. It took women a little longer to get there, but we did. The ladies bond over the experience, and soon concoct a wild way to bring justice and equality to their workplace. In a later scene, Fonda announces to her ex-husband that she smokes marijuana as part of her awakening. As an extra treat, VIP Sterling Hayden is featured as the company CEO who sweeps in to help give the ladies' dastardly boss (Dabney Coleman) what he deserves.

The film was viewed on Valentines Day 1981 by Ronald and Nancy "Just Say No" Reagan, after Ronnie wrote in his diary, "Funny—but one scene made me mad. A truly funny scene if the 3 gals had played getting drunk but no they had to get stoned on pot. It was an endorsement of Pot smoking for any young person who sees the picture." I guess he missed the moderation discussion with Violet and her son. And, the characters getting drunk would have been just fine with him.

Decades later, the movie was just about the only example a recent New York Magazine article could find of women smoking pot together on film, in a world where only "every once in a while you’ll get a Meet the Fockers–style mockable hippie-mom type."

9-5 was written and directed by Colin Higgins, who also wrote Harold and Maude (1971), in which an 80-year-old woman turns a young man onto pot (and life).

UPDATE: Tomlin sports a "Violet" tattoo in the movie "Grandma" (2015), where she plays a pot-smoking woman with much more punch that her TV character on "Grace & Frankie." Fonda shines as a hippie activist/pot peddler (also named Grace) who wisely and carefully instructs her grandkids on the use of a hookah in "Peace, Love & Misunderstanding" (2011).  

In 2023, the two spoke with Stephen Colbert about doing peyote together, as they did on the first episode of "Grace & Frankie." The two were promoting their film "Moving On," written and directed by Paul Weitz, who worked with Tomlin on "Grandma." Now in their 80s, the pair also co-starred last year in "80 for Brady" with Rita Moreno and Sally Field. 

It's nice to see Tomlin, at 85, starring in feature films; when she made "Grandma" she hadn't starred in a movie since she made "Big Business" in 1988 with Bette Midler, except for the 1991 film version of her one-woman play, "The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe."  It seems the public is finally ready for Lily's shamanhood (it's about time). 

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