Working Girl (1988) is a movie about a young women’s efforts to succeed in the brokerage industry where men are bosses and women are secretaries. Melanie Griffith plays a secretary who has the ambition and drive to succeed, but finds all the cards stacked up against her. Her male bosses don’t take her seriously, and things don’t improve even when she is assigned to a female boss. She has a good idea for an acquisition, which her new boss steals and tries to pitch as her own. Of course, like with all Hollywood movies the good wins over the evil, the hard-working people succeed and the dishonest and unethical find themselves defeated.
Most people like to think that if you work hard, success will come. The movie does a realistic job portraying how most people usually remain trapped in the socio-economic strata in which they were born. It is really hard to break free and move up when most other forces are working to keep you where you were. Of course, Hollywood movies do an efficient and effective job of taking you from you are to where you want to be.
The movie is definitely worth watching!
Trading Places (2002) is the story of a poor guy and a rich guy who cross paths by accident. This accident, however, changes life for both of them. Two rich and powerful men, Randolph and Marty Duke, make a million dollar bet as to whether the rich guy can maintain his virtues in the face of poverty and if the poor guy can become virtuous in affluence. The two brothers manipulate the situation and put each guy in the other guy’s situation. The movie is a business comedy about how the two guys think and act in situations that are completely alien to them. Are people what they are because of genetics or of environment? This is a long standing debate in psychology and behavioral studies. The movie favors the environmental explanation as changing the environment influences the behavior of both the rich guy and the poor guy. However, that’s not only reason to watch the movie. It is also a fun movie to learn about many finance-related concepts that most people don’t think about in their daily lives.
Of course, Eddie Murphy makes the movie a fun watch anyway. The guy was made for comedy movies!
Have you ever wondered what happens to old, used, and worn-out currency bills? Mad Money (2008) is a comedy movie that can help you learn about what the government does with all the used and damaged money.
The movie is about three female employees of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City who are tempted by all the money being shredded arounded them. They start smuggling soon-to-be-destroyed currency out of the bank, and are so succesful at it they soon accumulate more money than they know what to do with. However, the long hands of the law catch up to them and puts an end to their operation. Of course, in typical Hollywood style, just when you thought you knew how the movie was going to end, there is a surprise twist to the story.
The Efficiency Expert (1992) is a socially-conscious comedy movie set in 1960s Australia. Anthony Hopkins plays Errol Wallace, an efficiency expert who is in the business of helping companies become more efficient. His preferred route towards better efficiency is downsizing and layoffs. The central plot of the movie is about Wallace’s experience with a small shoe factory (Ball Moccassin Factory) that has become a small shadow of what it once was. The company is family-run and all employees are treated like family. The company is in such a bad shape that it has made no money in many years and management has been running the company by selling off assets. Just when Wallace things he has figured out how the company can become profitable again, he learns new lessons from the workers that change his life, his outlook towards business, and the future of the company.
The movie is interesting. In an era of globalization and corporate restructuring, it reminds us of the human side of doing business. At the same time, it also raises important questions about how to manage workers, and the kind of work environment management should strive for. It would be a good movie for students to watch, except that it is slow and drags at places.
Martha, Inc. (2003) is the story of Martha Sterwart, arguably one of the most succesful American women entrepreneurs of our time. The movie takes us to Martha’s childhood, her experiences in the family she grew up in, and her sense of competitiveness. It introduces us to her frustrations, her anxieties, and her failures. But, perhaps more importantly, it shows us her willingness to grab at and leverage every opportunity that came her way. The movie chronicles the rise and fall of Martha Stewart, but it is her rise from being a nobody to being an iconic entrepreneur in the country which most viewers of this movie are interested in (I think).
I don’t know how accurately this movie portrays the real life of Martha Stewart. We know that Hollywood movies, even those made on famous people, take at least some liberties with the truth. I admit that as yet I don’t know how much of the Martha Stewart presented in this movie is fictional and how much of her is real. Of course, if any of you know much about Martha, we would love to hear from you and what you think of the movie
Do you know what a leveraged buyout is? If your answer is No, don’t feel bad, a majority of other people do not know either. But if you are one of those who want to learn what a leveraged buyout is without having to read boring and dull finance books (my apologies to my friends in finance!) Barbarians at the Gate is the movie you should watch. It is a fictionalized account of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco in the 1980s. Many characters and companies in the movie will be familiar to most students of business- F.Ross Johnson, the CEO of Nabisco, Henry Kravitz of KKR, American Express, Shearson Lehman etc.
Oh, but wait a minute! It gets even better- The movie is not just about corporate leveraged buyouts, the kind of business deals most people will never be involved in in their life time. It’s also about salesmanship, new inventions like the smokeless cigarette (yes, you read it right!), corporate raiders, corruption, greed and many other concepts and ideas that business students learn in school. A truly entertaining and informative movie!
The tagline for North Country (2005) is “All she wanted to do was to make a living, Instead she made history”. The history in this case was the first major successful class-action sexual harassment case in the United States – Lois E. Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Co. The movie is a fictionalized account of the experiences Jenson had working at the company mines and her legal battle with the company that tolerated and implicitly encouraged the sexual abuse against Jenson and other female employees. In the movie Josie Ames (the fictionalized Lois Jensen) starts working at a mine, the only employment provider in the small Minnesota town where she grew up. However, mining has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, and Josie Ames finds herself fighting against commonly-held ideas her male co-workers and other people in the town had about the role of women in the mines. Josie goes from a single mother trying to make ends meet to becoming a social pariah in the community to winning a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the company. How times change!
Perhaps, the most interesting message the movie had for a business audience was that “a stitch in time saves nine”. There were many opportunities when the top management could have stepped in and taken some action to stop the abuse, but for some reason did not. One law firm gives a five-step plan for management when they find themselves in a similar situation:
Implement an effective anti-harassment policy.
On receiving a harassment claim, have impartial employees investigate it.
When warranted, take appropriate and prompt corrective action.
Don’t retaliate against the complaining employee.
When confronted with egregious and credible evidence, consider every opportunity for early (and inexpensive) resolution.
I am curious why the top management of Eveleth did not do anything about it. None of the websites present I searched presented the company’s perspective on the whole case.
Anyway, those interested in reading the real story that inspired the movie, click here.