Big Business is a shrill, unattractive comedy which stars Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin, who play two sets of twins mixed up at birth. They have distinctly different comic styles, with the former’s loud brashness generally dominating the latter’s sly skittishness.
A mishap at a rural hospital pairs off the daughters of a hick couple with the sprigs of a major industrialist and his society wife. Jump to New York today, where dynamic Moramax Corp board chairman Sadie Shelton (Midler) is forced to tolerate her scatterbrained, sentimental sister Rose (Tomlin) while trying to push through the sale of a subsidiary firm in their birthplace of Jupiter Hollow.
To try to thwart the sale at a stockholders’ meeting, another Sadie and Rose, of the Ratcliff clan, leave Jupiter Hollow for the big city. As soon as they arrive at the airport, the complications begin.
Of the four performances by the two leads, the one easiest to enjoy is Midler’s as venal corporate boss. Dressed to the nines and sporting a mincing but utterly determined walk, Midler tosses off her waspish one-liners with malevolent glee, stomping on everyone in her path.
There are moments of delight as well in her other characterization as a country bumpkin who has always yearned for the material pleasures of Babylon.
Tomlin has her moments, too, but her two sweetly flakey, nay-saying characters for a while seem so similar.