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Business As Usual Movie Review

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Economic sanctions may be the only thing that sexual bullies understand. This is the point that a gutsy young working-class filmmaker, Lezli-Ann Barrett, makes with her first movie, Business As Usual. Glenda Jackson plays the “manageress” of a Liverpool boutique to whom model Cathy Tyson appeals for help against the unwelcome advances of Mr. Barry, the area manager. None too thrilled to be caught in the middle, Jackson's character nonetheless complains to Barry, who promptly fires her without written notice. When she later asks for the reason for her dismissal in writing, Barry, who has already hired her replacement, has her removed from the store by the police. Her husband, a former embattled union leader, has lost his spirit and fears that she will lose hers by fighting back. However, her father and son, both labor organizers, are full of fight and urge her to enlist the help of her union. One of the interesting elements in Business As Usual is that the film shows how union leaders are sometimes willing to make harsh compromises with management in order to relieve tense labor struggles. By showing Jackson's husband (wonderfully played by John Thaw) as a defeated, weary, intensely proud man whose finest combats are behind him, Barrett's script also shows what an exhausting thing it is to fight on behalf of other workers. And the film certainly does not glamorize the long hours of picketing, the police harassment, and the media trivialization of sexual harassment issues. Barrett's screenplay is also interesting for her sensitive depiction of Tyson's boyfriend, well played by poet Craig Charles, Tyson's real-life husband. In the movies, targets of harassment are often aligned with some drippy character who first blames the victim and then withdraws emotional support. Tyson perfectly captures the pain and confusion of the harassment target and her scenes alone with Charles are tender and believable. The source of all this agony, Mr. Barry, is hardly a villain, just an average, run-of-the-mill jerk, who thinks that downgrading women is funny. As portrayed by Eamon Boland, he is not particularly bright and rather frightened of both men and women. All that is beside the point, of course, when he tries to halt a woman's career simply because she sees through his games. Production values on Business As Usual are deliberately gritty, a far cry from the glossy films in which Jackson usually stars. When Barrett got nowhere trying to submit her scripts to Jackson through an agent, she went to see her in a play and personally asked her to read the script. Even with Jackson's acceptance, it took years for Barrett to raise the money and attract the connections that, luckily for viewers, made Business As Usual possible. Note: In real life, Jackson won a Labor seat in Parliament in 1992.

1988 (PG) 89m/C Glenda Jackson, Cathy Tyson, John Thaw, Craig Charles, Eamon Boland; D: Lezli-Ann Barrett; W: Lezli-Ann Barrett; C: Ernest Vincze. VHS, Closed Caption

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