Labor Day: Films about the Working World by Women Filmmakers

Labor Day: Films about the Working World by Women Filmmakers

By Jan Lisa Huttner

SOMETHING OLD: 13 Conversations About One Thing



SOMETHING BLUE: Japanese Story

As we say a fond farewell to another summer and head into Fall, here are four films about workplace identities in the modern world.


Jill and Karen Sprecher first attracted attention with Clockwatchers, their 1997 feature about four temps on the bot- tom rung of an enormous corporation. In 2001, they released 13 Conversations About One Thing, a film with many of the same themes, but broader and deeper. The sisters share screenwriting credits on both films, with Jill named director.

The anchor of 13 Conversations is Gene, a middle-aged, middle-manager in a large Manhattan insurance company. Gene – exquisitely played by Alan Arkin – is a divorced workaholic, and loneliness is slowly corroding all his interactions. One night he meets Troy (Matthew McConaughey). Their casual bar stool conversation marks a turning point in both lives. When Troy leaves the bar, he has a tragic encounter with Beatrice (Clea DuVall), but when Gene leaves the bar, he has a brief encounter with Patricia (Amy Irving) which, though wordless, is filled with redemptive beauty.


Beatrice is a house-cleaner, Troy is an attorney, Patricia is the wife of a University professor. Just like Gene, all three are initially defined by the jobs that they do. But the filmmakers weave their stories together in profound ways, so that, by the end, we know we have peeked into the lives of indelible individuals.

13 Conversations is a wonderful film, but it’s serious and pensive. Beauty Shop, on the other hand, is pure fun. Gina, the Queen Latifah character from Barbershop 2, leaves Chicago and moves to Atlanta in search of a fresh start. She lands in an uptown salon owned by a martinet named “Jorge” (played with broad comic zest by Kevin Bacon), but quickly rebels, and then earns his full enmity by opening a rival shop in the ‘hood.

The Queen exercises her real-life powers as both star and producer by peopling Beauty Shop with a diverse set of well-known actors like Andie MacDowell, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Della Reese, Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari, and Alfre Woodard, all of whom play for laughs and get them. And then there’s Djimon Hounsou as Joe, the “love interest” with a capital L: wow!

Warning: this is a movie to share with your girlfriends. Guys who complain about Kevin Bacon’s Eurotrash accent without realizing that screenwriter Kate Lanier (best-known for writing the Tina Turner bio-pic What’s Love Got to Do with It) is just setting them up, will rain on the parade.