Big Business (1988 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jim Abrahams|
|Produced by||Michael Peyser
|Written by||Dori Pierson
Marc Reid Rubel
|Music by||Lee Holdridge|
|Editing by||Harry Keramidas|
Silver Screen Partners III
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution|
|Release date(s)||June 10, 1988|
|Running time||97 minutes|
Big Business is a 1988 American comedy film farce starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin (each playing two roles). It was produced by Touchstone Pictures, with the plot loosely based on The Comedy of Errors (1589–1594) by William Shakespeare.
The movie revolves around two sets of identical female twins who were mismatched at birth, with one ending in a wealthy urban family (the Sheltons) and the other in a poor rural family (the Ratliffs).
Prologue: Sometime in the late 1940s Mr. and Mrs. Shelton get lost in the middle of West Virginia looking for some friends' summer house, but Mrs. Shelton goes into labor and they stop at the Ratliffs' asking for directions for the nearest hospital. They end up going to the Jupiter Hollow Hospital but the doctor will not check them in because it is exclusively for employees of Hollowmade, the local furniture maker. Mr. Shelton buys the company on the spot. The Ratliffs arrive moments later with Mrs. Ratliff also in labor. The doctor tends both births at the same time, and the elderly nurse gets confused and mixes the babies. Mr. Ratliff overhears the Sheltons deciding to name their daughters Rose and Sadie, and suggests the same names to his wife.
Some 40 years later, the Shelton sisters are now co-chairwomen of Moramax, a giant conglomerate that is the successor to their father's business interests. However, their personalities are quite different. Sadie Shelton (Midler) is focused on her career and making profits. Rose Shelton (Tomlin) wishes for a simpler life in the country tending her family and a little farm, which caused a breakup with her boyfriend, Dr. Jay (Michael Gross). One particular business scheme that Sadie passes on to the Board of Moramax for approval by stockholders is the off-loading of Hollowmade, which still manufactures wood furniture.
Meanwhile Rose Ratliff (Tomlin) has risen to the office of forewoman at the Hollowmade Factory, and her personality is also very career-oriented, setting her personal life aside, while Sadie Ratliff (Midler) has always felt misplaced in rural life and wishes for a more sophisticated life in a big city. In her capacity as forewoman, Rose finds out Moramax's plans and fears that the off-loading of the company might bring a radical change of lifestyle for the people of Jupiter Hollow, so she makes plans to travel to New York City and stop the sale; faced with the prospect of traveling to (and probably staying in) New York, Sadie agrees to join her sister.
In New York, Sadie Shelton is planning the shareholders' meeting and is trying to hide the fact that the people of Jupiter Hollow actually oppose the sale of the company. Her employee, Graham Sherbourne (Edward Hermann) is reading a letter from Rose Ratliff (which she signs "R. Ratliff") about her plans of coming to New York and stop the sale. Sadie orders Sherbourne to locate the Ratliffs and stop them from appearing at the meeting.
At JFK Airport the Shelton sisters arrive in their limousine to pick up the prospective buyer of Hollowmade, Mr. Fabio Alberici. The Ratliff sisters arrive at the same time at the airport and meet Mr. Alberici (who knows them from the Sheltons' picture in the Moramax's annual report), and they take a ride back into the city in the Sheltons' limousine, leaving the Shelton sisters stranded at the airport. They attempt to take a taxi, until Rose finds they don't have much money, and the Shelton sisters are thrown out of the cab.
Once at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, the Ratliffs are checked into the Sheltons' suite, and the Sheltons are forced to take the subway to reach the hotel. When they finally get there all pooped out, the desk clerk sets them up in the room next door to their usual suite, much to Sadie's chagrin.
Mr. Alberici finally meets Sadie Shelton, but she believes at the beginning that he was offering sex services when he said that the purpose of their business "was understood"; once the faux pas has been cleared up, they strike a mutual attraction. On the other side, Sadie Ratliff meets her twin's former husband and son; her more humble demeanor appeals to him, and they also strike up an attraction.
In the meantime, Rose Ratliff has been trying to make Moramax's stockholders aware of Jupiter Hollow's opposition to the off-loading of their company and meets Dr. Jay (Rose Shelton's former boyfriend), with whom she strikes an attraction, while Rose Shelton meets Roone Dimmick, her twin's boyfriend, who came all the way from Jupiter Hollow to propose to Rose Ratliff.
In the meantime, Graham and his assistant (who is also his boyfriend) have managed to retain Roone in their own suite (assuming that he is "R. Ratliff"), but early in the morning they come to realize (inside an elevator filled with people) that they should have been looking for women. At the same time, Rose Ratliff is having breakfast and meets with Sadie Shelton; the latter assumes that Rose is her more humble sister and takes over the conversation, and they prepare to go to the shareholders' meeting at one of the hotel's conference rooms. A little later, Sadie Ratliff also meets with Rose Shelton at the same table in the same restaurant (in the meantime, both Sadies have bought the same outfit from the hotel boutique and thus appear virtually identical, except for a very similar haircut).
All sisters discover their mixup in the bathroom. The Ratliffs, with the assistance of Rose Shelton. trap Sadie Shelton in the broom closet. Rose Shelton and Sadie Ratliff attend the shareholders' meeting and succeed in stopping the sale of Jupiter Hollow. Afterwards, both sets of twins come out of the elevator to find their loved ones waiting for them, who are confused with which twin is which. They each then leave the Plaza with their newfound love.
The movie was originally written for Barbra Streisand (Midler's role) and Goldie Hawn (Tomlin's role). The plot is a coincidental and playful combination of two previously recognizable stories: Aesop's The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, and Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper; except in the 1988 film, the fictional protagonists are female, and actual twins instead of two look-alike characters.
The production company couldn't get the rights to film at the actual Plaza Hotel in New York City, so it had the hotel recreated on sound stages. To recoup construction costs, Disney built a sitcom called The Nutt House around it. It was an expensive flop. Jim Abrahams said he staged one of the boardroom scenes based on an experience he had when a large agency used many employees to get him to sign with them.
- Bette Midler — Sadie Shelton/Ratliff
- Lily Tomlin — Rose Shelton/Ratliff
- Fred Ward — Roone Dimmick
- Michael Gross — Dr. Jay Marshall
- Edward Herrmann — Graham Sherbourne
- Barry Primus — Michael
- Michele Placido — Fabio Alberici
- Seth Green — Jason
- Daniel Gerroll — Chuck
- Deborah Rush — Binky Shelton
- Nicolas Coster — Hunt Shelton
- J. C. Quinn — Garth Ratliff
- Joe Grifasi — Desk Clerk
- John Vickery — Hotel Manager
- Mary Gross — Judy
- Chick Hearn — as Himself
Directed by Jim Abrahams, critical reaction to the film as a whole was generally lukewarm. Midler received an American Comedy Award in the category Funniest Actress in a Motion Picture for her performance in 1989.
Box Office 
Home Media 
The film was released to VHS and laserdisc in 1990 by Touchstone Home Video, with a DVD release in 2002. In 2011, Big Business was among a selection of titles from Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures to be licensed to Mill Creek Entertainment and a DVD and Blu-ray disc were released of the film. The DVD is available on its own, as a double-feature with Straight Talk, and as a triple-feature with Straight Talk and V.I. Warshawski.
|Soundtrack album by Various Artists|
|Genre||Pop, film music|
Music from the Motion Picture album 
- Steve Winwood — "Higher Love" (Steve Winwood, Will Jennings)
- “Little Ole Lady” (Richard Wilbur, Marc Shaiman)
- Benny Goodman — "Sing, Sing, Sing" (Louis Prima)
- “Pennies from Heaven" (Johnny Burke, Arthur Johnston)
- George Benson — “On Broadway" (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil)
- The Trinidad Serenaders Steel Band — "Music Box Dancer" (Frank Mills)
- “Reilly Theme” (E. Shostakovich)
- "I'm in the Mood for Love" (Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields)
- "Awards for Big Business". iMDb. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- "Wanda' Heads Upstream". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.
- "Big Business". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-29.
- "WEEKEND BOX OFFICE : 'Crocodile' Swamps 'Rambo'; Hanks' 'Big' Hit". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-10.