Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: Whoopi pretends to be a man to succeed on Wall Street.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1996
Duration: 114 min
Language: USA/English
Director: Donald Petrie
Writer: Jenaro Prieto, Jean-Claude Carri
Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Dianne Wiest, Eli Wallach, Tim Daly, Bebe Neuwirth, Austin Pendleton, Lainie Kazan
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AssociateAs women, I think we all know that to make it in the business world, we often face hurdles unknown to most men. Add being African-American to that mix, and the unequal salaries, bypassed promotions and exclusions from the old boy’s club become even more prevalent.

Whoopi Goldberg experiences all of that as Laurel Ayres, a talented financial advisor on Wall Street whose junior male coworker (Tim Daly) steals her promotion. She decides to quit and starts her own firm, but quickly finds that no one will take her seriously. The solution is that she comes up with a fictitious older, white male partner, Robert Cutty, who gets all of the credit for her ideas.

Cutty becomes a huge success, making a lot of money for Laurel, but eventually he has to appear in public. One of Laurel’s friends is a drag queen (Kenny Kerr), so she enlists his help in fooling everyone using a rubber mask, white gloves and a tux to become Cutty.

Along the way, she is ably assisted by Sally (Dianne Wiest), an undervalued secretary from the old firm. Allison Janney (The West Wing, A Girl Thing, The Hours) briefly appears as another businesswoman who joins them at a strip club when they are trying to close a deal. Camille (Bebe Neuwirth) comes on to Cutty and kisses him as Laurel tries to get out of her embrace.

In the end, Cutty is named Businessman of the Year by a prestigious New York private club, and little do they know that they have just enrolled the first woman into their ranks! (They will soon find out.)

The Associate was based on the French film L’associe, which involves a fictitious partner, but does not tackle issues of race or gender. (AB)