Ossus Library Index Comedy Index

THE ASSOCIATE

Directed by Donald Petrie (1996, Buena Vista)
Starring Whoopie Goldberg, Diane Wiest, Eli Wallach, Timothy Daly and Bebe Neuwirth

A woman invents a male business associate in order to gain the confidence of new clients.

 

 

3+ stars+

October 29th, 2000 on Video  
    As a comedy, it wasn't all that funny, though it did have some great lines.  Otherwise, it was a great movie, with fleshed-out characters, a terrific script, and outstanding acting.

The thing that I like best about Whoopie Goldberg is the fact that she can (and usually does) show an incredible range of emotion in her movies.  She goes from underrated but accepting it to deceived and devalued shock to loneliness and terror, to frustration, and finally, to exuberantly excited!  And then she gets to cycle through all those emotions a second time before the movie ends.

Goldberg plays Laurel, working for a money broker.  She is very good at her job, and is tired of her co-worker, Frank, getting all the credit for her work.  But the last straw comes when he is promoted to the position she thought she would get.  She finally quits, and gets in one of the funniest lines of the movie: Frank thinks she is premenstrual, and she says "if I was premenstrual, you'd be dead!"  Okay, so reading it without seeing Goldberg do the actions isn't quite as funny, but trust me...

So Laurel sets up her own firm, setting up her home as collateral.  That scene is a mixture of funny and haunting, one because of her reactions to the Women's Bank, and the other because this is all that she has left, and it was left to her by her father.

Unfortunately, she fails to get any clients.  They all want to stay with their existing brokers, mainly because they are men, and she is a woman.  It seems that the consensus is that women don't know how to manage money, and that they don't belong on Wall Street.  This is when her old secretary shows up.  Sally has all of the best lines in the movie, and she is a very strong character.  She has a cynical way of thinking that even some of the other customers think is pretty funny.  She helps Laurel get her first real customer appointment.

Of course, the man isn't interested, until Laurel tells him that her partner is a man, by the name of Cutty.  Then he agrees to read her proposal, and ultimately accepts it.  After that, getting customers is easy, and they flock to her in droves.  But they never get to see Cutty.  Sally comes to work for Laurel, and she wonders when she'll get to see Cutty for herself!

Fortunes become even brighter when Laurel discovers that Hewlett Packard is going to buy a nearly bankrupt software company, and buys shares, which skyrocket the next day.  Everybody is very happy to have their money brokered by Laurel and her mysterious partner, Cutty.  There is a wonderfully emotional scene where Laurel tells her secret about making up Cutty to Sally, who whispers that she already knew, but thought the facade should keep going.  I knew Sally was smart enough to figure it out sooner or later.

The only problems with this movie come when Laurel decides that she's tired of standing in Cutty's shadow.  She manages to get the creator of the software company to become her client, and promises to fix it up so that they don't have to be bought.  All she needs is some backers.  They agree, but only if Cutty shows up in person this time.  So she scams them, by saying Cutty will never speak to the press, and then leaking out the meeting location to the press.  Of course, "Cutty" then gets to drive off without anybody seeing him, and Laurel is left to present the meeting all by herself.  I wondered who was driving the limo, that wouldn't tell people that Cutty was really never in that car.  When the financial backers decide to leave because they don't want to deal with Laurel, she gives an underwhelming teary-eyed performance designed to make them stay.

Unfortunately, Cutty is charged with insider trading, and is subpoenaed to court, all because of Frank's meddling.  It is suggested that if he were to sit down and talk to Frank and the agent, they could "work out a deal".  So Laurel goes to her transvestite friend (who is quite funny), and gets a disguise.  And Cutty appears to the world for the first time.  The chases that ensue, from the blabbing hotel staff to the press, and a hilarious scene with one of Laurel's friends (who wants to bed Cutty) are presented with the perfect mix of comedy and mayhem.  Cutty's sojourn into the men's room is especially memorable.

But she eventually escapes, breathless and extremely frustrated, so she decides to kill Cutty.  She decides that he was on a boat that sank off the Asian coast, but then all of those people were rescued.  She and Sally blow up his car, with a skeleton inside it, and they get arrested.  Fortunately for them, Frank, her former associate, has discovered her ruse, and claims Cutty for himself.  Using Photoshop, he pastes Cutty's picture into one of himself, and tells the world that Cutty was not in the car that exploded.  This guy is very lucky!

So Laurel and Sally are released from prison, and Laurel spends the rest of her time moping around.  Thankfully, those moping scenes are very short, and Sally gets Laurel to come out of her apartment.  She also tells her that Cutty is up for the Peabody Award, which can only be given to a man.  So she hatches another devilish plan!  As expected, she strides into the Peabody club, in Cutty's disguise, gives a speech, and in the tradition of Tootsie, reveals herself first to be black-skinned, by removing the gloves, and then she takes off the mask, and thanks everybody for electing their first woman to the Club. 

The entire scene was hilarious, mostly because of the audience reaction.  The woman who wanted to take Cutty to bed faints.  The women, and non-white staff at the hotel, are extremely impressed.  Finally, in an event which is probably totally unrealistic, and which felt a little forced, the entire Club gives her an ovation.

One thing that is glossed over at the end, but only because it was mentioned earlier in the movie, is that Laurel would be arrested for fraud if anybody found out that she was Cutty.  But at the end, she is even more successful, though her license was suspended.  If it hadn't been mentioned earlier in the movie, I would never have thought about it at the end.

Fortunately, it didn't ruin the movie for me, for the most part.  I thoroughly enjoyed Laurel's exploits, especially when she dupes all the people who are trying to squash her.  Sally was a joy as well. Actually, all the actors were really good.  The script wasn't airtight, but it was still well written, and executed even better.  I'll still look back fondly and with a smile as I remember the things that went on in this movie.

The movie wasn't especially funny as a comedy -I've seen more funny moments in a drama- but it did have enough to satisfy my need for laughter, especially when she dresses up as Cutty, because we have inside information and we know how irrationally people are acting.

 
   

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