The sad thing about this fiasco is that Whoopi Goldberg, with her abundant wit and intelligence, could easily have made great fun with the fertile field of gender resentment in the business world.
"The Associate" opens with promise and then proceeds to fizzle slowly until it lies moribund on the screen, a limp and lumpen mass of missed opportunities. It's quite a trick to make a mediocre movie with a cast that includes Whoopi Goldberg, Dianne Wiest, and Eli Wallach.
Writer Nick Thiel and director Donald Petrie set a fine tone with some terrific scenes of stock exchange traders looking like little messengers screaming out the prices of other people's dreams. It's the game of money, and more money is the prize.
Laurel Ayres (Whoopi Goldberg) makes a lot of good things happen for her Wall Street firm. The credit for her efforts is quickly taken by her colleague, Frank (Tim Daly), a devious sneak who worms his way into the culture of boardroom laughter, golf games, and private clubs. No women need apply. Frank gets Laurel's promotion; Laurel quits and starts her own firm. Script problems begin to bubble up around the drowning characters.
Although Laurel is billed as a financial whiz, nothing tells us why she is so good. When she quits, the glass ceiling follows right along with her. No one in the financial world will even listen to her spiel. If there is one natural truth in this world, it is that men will go where the money is, even if the source is a woman. If Laurel could make money for them, they'd line up at her door.
By now the movie is mired in stereotypes. Successful businessmen tend to be far smarter and meaner than the fatuous imbeciles depicted in this decidedly unfunny boardroom portrait. Laurel's devoted assistant Sally (a very buttoned-up Dianne Wiest), is billed as a closet computer genius but seems memorable only for competent data entry. Camille (Bebe Neuwirth) is the corporate vamp. Aesop (Austin Pendleton) is introduced as a brilliant software nerd but contributes little to the story. The movie has sunk into deadly dull caricature.
Looking desperately for credibility, Laurel invents an associate, Robert Cutty, the business partner who will bring her entry to a man's world. Under the rubber mask of a white male, she becomes instantly acceptable. When even her invention eclipses her on the business scene, she and Sally decide to kill him off in an embarrassingly silly episode.
The sad thing about this fiasco is that Whoopi Goldberg, with her abundant wit and intelligence, could easily have made great fun with the fertile field of gender resentment in the business world. How about a real look at the boys' club? How about a comic triumph of cleverness and drive over malice? How about poking some fun at Wall Street's pomposity?
Gender discrimination is a perfect platform for a Whoopi Goldberg satire, but this time out, caricature and slapstick defeat the potential. The sharp points she does make are lost because the people and situations that surround her are asinine. This movie was a good idea, lacking only one thing--a good script.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Hollywood Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h54m
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