The Secret of My Success

As in Working Girl, the secret of his success is that he gives himself an unofficial promotion.  And hilarity ensues.

(One day, I promise, I will write a comedy called Hilarity Ensues.) (And also one called Suitcase Full of Money.)

Herbert Ross directed many fine character-based comedies.  And also this.

The 80s, it seems, were not good for him.  His direction here is arch, self-conscious and brittle.

Don’t get me started on the music.  Clangorous, deafening 80s arena rock by bands with names like Night Ranger and Restless Heart.  Not what you want for an office comedy, romantic comedy or farce, all of which Secret of My Success tries to take on at different points.

Michael J. Fox, bless his heart, looks all of 17, Helen Slater looks like Princess Di (in linebacker’s shoulder pads) and Richard Jordan does an uncanny (if inexplicable) impression of Willem Dafoe.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright and national treasure Christopher Durang logs many days as an executive with a lot of screen time but few lines.  He and David Mamet and Wallace Shawn and Sam Shepard and Harold Pinter should all do a movie together.  Actually, I guess I mean the exact opposite of that.

Mark Margolis, who made such an impression in Scarface as the Peruvian assassin with blood of icewater, here is reduced to muttering and looking hapless as an elevator maitenance man.  I guess after Al Pacino splatters your brains all over the side window of a station wagon, you take what you can get.

A young Mercedes Ruehl plays a dotty waitress.

The zany comedy drags.  Faces are pulled, doors slam, clothes come off, elevators are stopped (much to the consternation of the ex-Peruvian assassin with blood of icewater).

Usually in movies like this they put off-brand art on the walls because the originals would cost to much to procure and insure for the shoot.  I give this movie credit for having its walls festooned with genuine 80s art instead of just knockoffs, mostly bold geometric assertions by the likes of Frank Stella and Sol LeWitt.  However, I take away points for having a Josef Albers hanging sideways through the whole movie.  Sideways!  Albers must have been lying sideways in his grave.  People, people, you turn “Homage to the Square” sideways and it makes no sense at all!

Working Girl, even with its big fake Warhol, crushes this like a grape.
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5 Responses to “The Secret of My Success”
  1. urbaniak says:

    Caught that on TV a couple of years ago and I concur. Yeesh.

    Does the generation that came after ours have a sense of the magnitude of Michael J. Fox’s movie stardom for a period there during the ’80s? Because he was huge. I remember being with some friends at someone’s house in New Jersey one night in the mid-80s when MJF was appearing on The Tonight Show and everyone wanted to watch it. It was an event.

  2. mitdasein says:

    Uncanny. I must have looked this movie up on imdb moments before you posted this, because my girlfriend and I were arguing about how many 80s movies featured the song “Oh Yeah” by Yello.

    • Todd says:

      “Oh Yeah” by Yello

      Is that who’s responsible for that atrocity? Jesus, it’s painful. They use it twice during the movie and it takes painfully overplayed sex farce and makes it excruciating.

      (Incidentally, “excruciating” has the same root as “crucifix,” and refers to a punishment so sever as to resemble crucifixion. And I stand by this comparison.)

    • urbaniak says:

      Yes, the “Oh Yeah” song. Featured during the Corvette reveal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”