Dustin Hoffman proves that he’s no Drag Act in “Tootsie”

Hi, everyone, it’s me, Bibliophile96, back from a long hiatus to critique some more flicks from my favourite decade: the 1980’s! I’ve been insanely busy as of late, so much so, that I’ve been neglecting this blog! Well, I’m back to remember some of the most memorable, (and in some cases, the not so memorable) movies which were released in the 80’s, although occasionally I gravitate towards movies or T.V. shows which use the 1980’s as a backdrop. So if you have any ideas for anything I should review, please let me know!

Today’s review will focus on the ultimate drag movie, at least since 1952’s “Some Like it Hot”- “Tootsie” (1982), which proved to be one of Dustin Hoffman’s finest performances to date, in my own personal opinion. Although it’s billed as a comedy, with the main plot being about a man who crossdresses to land a role on a primetime soap opera to earn extra cash, it actually runs a lot more deeper than that simple concept. This leads me to describe:

The Plot in a Nutshell: Michael Dorsey (Hoffman) is an actor who is known for being notoriously difficult to work with. After his friend Sandy (Teri Garr) auditions for, and subsquently fails to get, the plum role of “Emily” in “Southwest General”, a parody of “General Hospital”, a similar real life series also set in a hospital, Michael is desperate for an acting job, as well as money to finance a play scripted by his wisecracking roommate, Jeff (Bill Murray). In fact, he’s so desperate that he auditions in drag for the exact same role- as “Dorothy Michaels”. Once he lands the role, he becomes acquainted with his co-workers, such as glamourous single mother Julie (Jessica Lange), belligerent, sexist show director Ron (Dabney Coleman), aging costar John (George Gaynes)and Julie’s widowed father, Les (Charles Durning).

But as “Dorothy” becomes increasingly more successful, Michael finds himself developing feelings for Julie which greatly exceed friendship, which doesn’t help the fact that she thinks he’s a woman. Michael starts to date Sandy after she walks in on him  scrutinising her clothes in order to generate more ideas for Dorothy’s outfits, but covers this up by sleeping with her in order to keep his secret hidden. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, both Les and John make bids to court “Dorothy”, which inevitably leads to many comical misunderstandings. Will Michael’s dual identity take its toll on him, or can he find a way to extricate himself from this compromising situation?

My Take on “Tootsie”: On paper, you wouldn’t think that a film such as “Tootsie” would really work, due to how implausible the plot seems to be. However, this turns out to be a charming, hilarious comedy. This works primarily because of Hoffman, although the support of the other actors helps as well. Hoffman actually convinces as a woman, not just through his clothing choices, but through his demeanor and mannerisms. It’s worth noting that during the making of this movie, Hoffman dressed up as his daughter’s “Aunt Dorothy” for a parent/teacher conference in order to test whether the costume would be effective on other people outside of the film. As a result, the teacher  was fooled by the deception, therefore showing how successful Hoffman was.

Actor Observations: Aside from Hoffman’s remarkable ability to convince as a man and a woman, there are copious  supporting cast really shine. Jessica Lange delivers a well deserved Oscar Winning performance as love interest Julie, almost 30 years before “American Horror Story” would resurrect her career, so to speak. The always brilliant Bill Murray delivers his usual wry, deadpan jokes, particularly at the expense of Michael’s situation. The film’s director, Sydney Pollack also gets some interesting lines in as Michael’s long suffering agent, George. In addition, watch out for a pre-fame Geena Davis (as Julie’s co-nurse on the Show within a Show) and Estelle Getty (Sophia from “The Golden Girls”, in a bit part towards the end of the movie).

My Favourite Scene: It’s a tough call, but the two scenes which tie for being my favourite scene is when Michael, in his Dorothy guise, is invited to stay for the holidays with Julie, Les and Julie’s baby, Amy. It’s such a gentle, tranquil moment, set to the movie’s theme song, “It Might be You”, by Stephen Bishop. It strikes a chord with me because it shows that Michael is starting to really embrace his role as a woman, which fits in with the overall concept of “a man learning how to be a better man by becoming a woman”, of the movie.

The other scene which is a strong contender for the distinction of being my favourite scene is when Sandy suspects Michael of cheating on her after seeing a strange woman (“Dorothy”, naturally!) exit Michael’s apartment. The scene, along with Teri Garr’s bombastic chewing of the scenery, has to be seen to be believed!

Would I Recommend Watching this Movie?: I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who’s a fan of Hoffman’s work, or just likes comedy movies in general.

My Rating of “Tootsie”: I would give “Tootsie” 4 and a half stars out of five, as it’s very entertaining and iconic!







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I am a lover of books, 80's movies and simply acting of any kind! My blog is mainly about sharing my enjoyment of these interests with people with similar pastimes.

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