‘Coffee, tea, me?‘ A colleague used to say to me in a fake American accent when she was making tea for her boss. I would chuckle and our younger colleague would look at us inquisitively, wondering what the joke was. It is of course a classic line from the film ‘Working Girl’ staring Melanie Griffiths as Sigourney Weaver’s assistant. Melanie’s character, Tess, takes the place of Catherine, her boss, whilst she is laid up in bed with a broken leg. Unbeknown to Catherine, Tess moves into her apartment, her office and her clothes! When a young and handsome Harrison Ford enters the office unannounced, Tess asks her friend to pretend to be her and delivers the iconic line in a thick New York accent. Tess uses her initiative to obtain a meeting with a high powered exec and gets herself in deep trouble. I hurriedly bought the DVD for my younger colleague with instructions of it being essential viewing for an Executive PA. If I look for the lesson hidden in the movie I would say use your initiative to come up with ideas but probably best to not pretend you are the boss.
The ultimate PA film is the Devil Wears Prada based on the book by Lauren Weisberger who is rumoured to have worked for Anna Wintour at American Vogue and based the novel on her experience. Meryl Streep is a convincing media queen with her softly spoken tones and an acid twitch of the mouth that can finish a young fashion designer’s career. Emily Blunt is the disgruntled senior assistant and delivers the best sound bites of the movie; ‘You eat carbs for Christ sake’ she shouts at her junior, Andy (played by Anne Hathaway). When she takes her place for Paris fashion week Emily scorns at Andy ‘You sold your soul the minute you put on that first pair of Jimmy Choos’. Luckily none of my bosses have been anything like Editor-in-Chief, Miranda Priestly but I can identify with some of the tasks the assistants have to undertake. I spent two days memorising the faces of a guest list in preparation for a high profile media party so that I didn’t have to ask for their names as i checked them in, just as the ‘Miranda Girls’ have to before the fancy benefit event. It certainly highlights the downsides of aiming to be a ‘perfect PA’ and giving up your life trying to achieve the impossible. The above photo is from Elle.com where they shared facts from the movie for it’s 10th anniversary last year.
27 Dresses might not seem an obvious choice for a movie about Exeuctive PAs as it is based on a young woman who is a perpetual bridesmaid. However, the story centres around Executive Assistant Jane, played by Katherine Heigl, who can’t say no. This is a trait many of us assistants are guilty of. The story starts with her travelling between two weddings in a taxi, getting confused which wedding she is at or what she should be wearing and losing her precious paper diary in the process. She is lost without her trusty diary of lists and telling her where to be and when. She wants to please everyone, especially her boss. It all comes to a head when Jane’s selfish sister turns up and pushes Jane to her limit. It is a lesson in what happens when we constantly put others needs before our own and the underlying anger that can cause. Photo from Katherine Heigl’s website.
So there you go, all you need now is a rainy Sunday, box of your favourite chocolates and these three classic Rom-Com movies lined up on your iPad for a day in bed. Go on, you deserve it!