Film: Tootsie

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Film:

Tootsie

Director: Sydney Pollack
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Sony Pictures

One of the touchstone movies of the 1980s, Tootsie stars Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a dowdy, middle-aged woman to get a part on a hit soap opera. The scheme works, but while he/she keeps up the charade, Hoffman’s character comes to see life through the eyes of the opposite sex. The script by Larry Gelbart (with Murray Schisgal) is a winner, and director Sydney Pollack brings taut proficiency to the comedy and sensitivity to the relationship nuances that emerge from Hoffman’s drag act. Great supporting work from Teri…

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One of the touchstone movies of the 1980s, Tootsie stars Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a dowdy, middle-aged woman to get a part on a hit soap opera. The scheme works, but while he/she keeps up the charade, Hoffman’s character comes to see life through the eyes of the opposite sex. The script by Larry Gelbart (with Murray Schisgal) is a winner, and director Sydney Pollack brings taut proficiency to the comedy and sensitivity to the relationship nuances that emerge from Hoffman’s drag act. Great supporting work from Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Bill Murray, and pre-stardom Geena Davis. But the film finally belongs to Hoffman, who seems to connect with the character at a very deep and abiding level. —Tom Keogh

Tootsie inevitably looks dated in some respects now, but it’s still fabulous in others—the sexual politics look distinctly faded in their sniggering approach to sexual ambiguities, while the sardonic portrayal of a showbiz that loathes perfectionism is still both timely and hysterically funny. Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Michael Dorsey is a memorable self-caricature—the man is so obsessed with the craft of acting that he refuses to sit down when playing a tomato in a commercial, and so producers run away rather than work with him. By playing Dorothy Michaels playing her soap character, Dorsey gives himself the freedom to be a bad and popular actor. He is so busy with the surface of being a woman—the voice, the hair, the frocks—and with all the bad faith of his and Dorothy’s emotional lives, that he learns to relax into the pleasure of performance. This aspect of the film is far more interesting, ironic and funny than the corny New Man moralising about sexual roles that goes with it. Jessica Lange got, and earned, an Oscar for her sensitive straight woman performance as the colleague Michael falls for, and Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Geena Davis (momentarily) and Charles Durning all turn in reliable supporting roles. Sydney Pollack directs efficiently rather than inspiredly—oddly, he earns almost more credit for his well-observed performance as Michael’s world-weary agent. —Roz Kaveney

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