The Associate doesn’t get any help from a title that sounds like a Jean-Claude Van Damme kick-flick, but the movie could certainly use it.
A humorless, self-deluded bore, The Associate stars Whoopi Goldberg as a Wall Street financial analyst struggling to make her way in a man’s world.
Goldberg’s Laurel Ayres has spent years at a midlevel posistion, watching incompetent, male coworkers move up the corporate chain. When her dimwitted partner (Tim Daley) is given the executive position she deserves, Laurel quits to start a firm of her own.
Despite her financial wisdom and talent, Laurel gets nowhere in Wall Street’s boys club (in keeping with the continued assimilation of Whoopi’s persona, the movie doesn’t go near the fact that this might also be because she’s black.) After all her conventional business methods fail, Laurel invents a male partner for her firm.
For the first half hour of The Associate, the audience is way ahead of the script.
For the first half hour of The Associate, the audience is way ahead of the script. The minute Laurel hears of the promotion, we know that her partner is going to get it. And it’s obvious from the start that Laurel’s business will initially fail. But rather than skim over these plot points, director Donald Petrie treats them as invaluable moments. Since nothing humorous happens in any of these scenes, we just have to sit through them until they’re finished.
For a movie that deals with feminist concerns, The Associate features an awful lot of scenes where women pointlessly strut around in lingerie. As the personal assistant to a Wall Street bigwig, Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Cheers) gets to appear half-naked twice. Posing in a lingerie shop, she tells Laurel that men only want sex. Later in a hotel room, she attempts to seduce Laurel, who is disguised as a man. The first scene hardly makes for liberated thinking and the second is a lame, overdone comedy bit.
There are a few bright spots in The Associate, mostly due to Austin Pendleton’s supporting role. As Aesop Franklin, a Bill Gates-like computer genius who becomes one of Laurel’s first clients, Pendleton is genuinely goofy and free from the laborious script.