Video Review: Donna Summer "She Works Hard For The Money"

In the clouds, a woman dances, wearing a white dress. At 5:30 a.m. the alarm clock rings and she wakes up. She shuts it off, looks at the time and puts her hand on her temple. She walks to the bus stop, where the driver calls out to her. She thanks him. The man who runs the newsstand on her way to work gives her a paper.

Against a gray background, Donna Summer sings.

The young woman enters the building, takes the elevator and then gets off on the floor where she works. She grabs her supplies and changes into an apron. She scrubs the floor of the building.

The traffic light changes. At her second job, she fixes her unruly hair and checks her teeth. Through the kitchen, she sees a crowd waiting. She opens the restaurant, letting the customers inside. It’s only 9 a.m. Summer sits in a booth, drinking some coffee.

The woman walks out of the kitchen, a tray of coffee and tea for her table. On the way there, a man pinches her butt. She smiles through clenched teeth.

Eight a.m. the next morning, she is working at her third job at the sewing factory. Summer stands by the time cards, watching the tired woman wipe her face. Later, she walks home with groceries, stepping over the train tracks to get home. In the front yard, her son and daughter are playing catch.

She closes the blinds in the kitchen at 12:15 p.m. Summer is across the street, watching as she cooks lunch for her kids. She takes off her’s son hat and tells her daughter to stop fighting. They pound the table with their silverware and her son spills over the milk. At 9:30 p.m., she goes to bed. She looks over a photograph of herself as a ballerina and then at her daughter.

Everyday, she deals with her kids, nagging customers and sweating through her clothes. A dish slips from her hands, breaking. She falls from exhaustion. Summer runs to comfort her but the woman waves her away. At the sewing factory, she falls asleep. One afternoon, she returns home with groceries and the house is a mess. Overwhelmed, she puts her head into her hands and sobs. Summer pounds on the door.

In the street, she begins to dance. Women from the various restaurants and offices join her. Some are police officers while others are doctors. Summer walks on the fire escape, watching from the apartment building.

Rating: 4/5

The woman needs a break. She is a single mother. who works three part-time jobs and takes care of two kids. No one seems to appreciate or recognize her. She is expected to work herself to the bone and be grateful she gets a paycheck at all.

She often hears from family members who blame her for the relationship not working out, telling her she should’ve planned better. She had her daughter at age 20, the peak of her dancing career. She fell for the male lead in the ballet. For about a year, they had a passionate relationship. Then, she got pregnant. He didn’t really want a kid but stayed with her out of obligation to do so. She had to quit. They broke up, in which he told her she and the baby were holding him back.

She stayed in New York and took as many as jobs as she could. Two years later, she met another man at the restaurant. He was a regular customer who asked her out. They stayed together for several years until he passed away.

She looks at the photograph of her as a dancer, thinking of what her life would be like now: retired, attending banquets as a featured guest for the ballet company and giving interviews on her post-dance life. But it didn’t happen. She sacrificed it to take care of her children. It’s tiring and overwhelming but they are important to her.

Director: Brian Grant Year: 1983

 

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