The Associate

Whoopi Goldberg is back on the scene and back on the screen and looking more like Lenny Henry than ever. In The Associateshe plays Laurel Ayres, an intelligent, sharp-witted investment analyst who is climbing the ladder to success, but ultimately getting nowhere because she lacks one very important element, testosterone. It's not so much that she doesn't have balls, but she doesn't have the right kind. So, what's a girl to do among the wheeler-dealers of Wall Street when she finds herself in so unappetizing a position? Get all dressed up and get somewhere to go, of course. After pretending to be her own male business associate, the financial wizard Robert S. Cutty, her successful deception unexpectedly necessitates cross dressing in order to successfully maintain her lucrative and deceptive activities. It may be a drag, but it seems to be the only solution available. Once the media get their sights centered on the newest figure and hottest item on the financial scene they pursue him/her with a vengeance. Goldberg's vision of the character is summed up very succinctly, "In the film, people start talking about the fictitious Robert Cutty as if he were real. They start claiming they went to school with him, or even that they are having a relationship with him, just to hitch their wagon to this star who is really a paper tiger. They guy doesn't exist -- and yet people claim to have just had lunch with him." After a while, her life gets very Lucille Ball and she has to move at such a pace that she doesn't know whether she's coming or going.

Very enjoyable as pure entertainment, the film misses out on several opportunities to take the issues of sex and race discrimination sparsely built into the script and make striking points with them; there's nothing particularly wrong with this approach, but the producers mustn't pretend that it does make such points. Director Donald Petrie has done a fine job with an entertaining script.

Dianne Wiest is the seemingly shy Sally, a constantly overlooked super-secretary who sees a golden chance for herself while simultaneously helping a partner in the fellowship of women. Tim Daly competently portrays the sleazeball business partner who might have walked out of another recently released film with similar characters. Bebe Neuwirth, always wonderful in oh so many ways, doesn't get enough chance to sufficiently display her various abilities in this vehicle. Lainie Kazan is Lainie Kazan, this time appearing as gossip columnist Cindy Mason.

Superb points for the fabulous work of Academy Award® winning prosthetic make-up artist Greg Cannom for the film (which includes seven layers of make-up, a fat suit, a bald cap, and three-and-one-half hours of application time). One can almost imagine Robert Cutty looking into his dressing room mirror and saying, "I wish Whoopi was here to see this".

Final comments on the film? Don't judge a film by its cover; inside every successful woman there is a man.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett