For anyone who’s ever won. For anyone who’s ever lost. And for everyone who’s still in there trying to figure out Harrison Ford’s peak hotness. It’s HuffPost’s Rom-Com Week.
Why does the universe exist? Do we have free will? Is there such a thing as objectivity? When did Harrison Ford’s hotness peak?
These are among philosophy’s biggest questions. For ages, experts have considered them unanswerable, prompting endless debate over humankind and its origins. Some claim Ford is sexiest while battling those “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Nazis in a half-buttoned shirt; others prefer him bespectacled in “Sabrina,” dashing but distant; a few might even nominate the latter-day Han Solo, still puttering around the Millennium Falcon as his grays set in. They are wrong. I have the free will to tell you that Ford’s maximum appeal, objectively speaking, is in “Working Girl.”
Released 30 years ago, on Dec. 21, 1988, “Working Girl” marks the apex of everything Harrison Ford. Forty-six when the movie opened, he isn’t as boyish as he is in “American Graffiti,” as cocksure as he is in “Star Wars” or as damp as he is in “Blade Runner.” Playing the sophisticated executive turned romantic interest, he’s a more traditional hunk, worthy of Robert Redford or Burt Lancaster. Instead of being surrounded by special effects, as he was in the spectacles that made him a blockbuster star, Ford is the special effect. When Staten Island Ferry passenger Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) asks Ford’s Jack Trainer if there’s anything wrong with her having “a head for business and a bod for sin,” he looks at her breathlessly, barely able to speak as his face turns into a sentient heart-eyes emoji.
To prove the universe exists to give us Harrison Ford in “Working Girl,” consider a scene that occurs halfway through the film. Tess, a Wall Street investment-bank secretary with ladder-climbing ambitions, is on the phone with Jack, an arbitrageur handling the firm’s high-stakes acquisition. Jack rises from the desk in his glass-windowed office, spouting business jargon before stripping off his shirt and inviting Tess to lunch. As if responding to a clarion call, the women outside halt what they’re doing to watch him change. The hotness of Harrison Ford ― or Jack Trainer, I guess ― is so undeniable that not even the workplace can render it taboo: When he turns around to find them staring, rather than avert their gaze, the ladies applaud his torso. Their afternoon delight reverses typical movie-comedy lust, which lets men ogle women with the camera’s encouragement.
Ford hasn’t made many romantic comedies, in part because he does not embody the packaged charm of someone like Hugh Grant, Tom Hanks or Taye Diggs. (Who does?) He scowls too much, unwilling to surrender his composure to Hollywood frolics. It’s why Han Solo responding to Princess Leia’s “I love you” with a gentle “I know” isn’t a turn-off, and why that singular “Empire Strikes Back” moment, at once sensitive and standoffish, crystallized Ford’s image. But his resting hard-to-get face shifts at just the right moments, offering an unexpected pleasantry that places him in an appealingly realistic gray area, neither cloying nor oafish. His apathy toward big-screen bombast becomes his calling card.
“Working Girl” plays into those qualities better than anything else. At times, Ford seems downright goofy by comparison, like when he double-fists cocktails with absurdly long straws at a wedding reception, twisting his mouth as he slurps one down. Jack Ryan would never! Leave it to the gifted Mike Nichols to know just how to use the performers in his movies.
Tess and Jack become personal and professional companions, their banter growing more playful over time. Tess’ acumen cracks his shell; after an important client meeting results in their victory, he can’t make it down the stairs without stopping to kiss her. They continue at Jack’s apartment, and after sleeping together, he darts around whistling “If I Only Had a Brain,” shirtless and carefree.
Because Ford is discerning in how he doles out charisma, these moments of delight feel earned. He isn’t working to win us over like Matthew McConaughey, nor does he rely on aloof ease like Colin Firth. Instead, he opts for something more naturalistic, an interiority that is inherently sexy. His smile makes him seem shy, and suddenly you realize there’s more to the guy than stubborn disregard.
Now, look. This is an ’80s comedy, so let’s not pretend that, despite its feminist leanings, the movie emerges unscathed. Jack is cheating on his girlfriend, Katharine (Sigourney Weaver), who also happens to be Tess’ duplicitous boss (though he doesn’t know that yet). Jack was planning to end things with Katharine, but he doesn’t explain that until after they’ve hooked up. Not a good look, dude. Then again, Tess is lying to Jack, too, masquerading as an executive after Katharine, who’d stolen her idea for the aforementioned acquisition, goes on medical leave. In the movie’s eyes, they’re even. Jack and Tess get to be flawed, and to find a union amid those flaws. Don’t lie, you’d keep smooching him, too. He’s chiseled but not too chiseled, he has great taste in coats and he doesn’t walk around with a gun like Rick Deckard.
So, I see your Indiana Jones thirst and raise you Jack Trainer, a character who needs no swashbuckling adventures to illustrate his attractiveness. The last time we see Jack, he’s pouring Tess coffee and handing over the lunchbox he prepared for her ― the ultimate swoon, ensuring that “Working Girl” remains her story, as Ford clearly knows it is.
This is an ontological truism worthy of Plato: Your preference for “Patriot Games” or “Air Force One” is an illusion; the hotness of “Working Girl” is reality. Debate settled.