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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“Scrooged” puts a Little Love into Christmas

The next Yuletide Christmas movie we’ll be covering is “Scrooged”, the 1988 retelling of the classic Charles Dickens novel, “A Christmas Carol”. We all know the basic plot: cold-hearted miser who abhors Christmas is shown the error of his ways by three ghosts, and redeems himself. This flick follows this formula to a tee, but updates it to a TV news station in the 1980’s.

Bill Murray stars in the Ebenezer Scrooge role of Frank Cross, a perpetually grumpy TV executive who will stop at nothing to ensure that his network gets the highest ratings. He plots to make all of his workers slave away on Christmas Eve by staging a live adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”. As Cross’ own memories of Christmas was less than fond, he takes his anger and bitterness out on his long-suffering assistant Grace (Alfre Goodard), and has alienated himself from his only brother, James (played by Murray’s own brother, John). When one of his employees, Elliot (Bobcat Goldthwait) poses an objection towards one of Cross’ promos for the network, he’s callously fired.

All of this leads into a very clear parallel of Dicken’s tale, especially when Cross is accosted by his old boss, Lew Hayward (John Forsythe), who warns him of the impending visit of three ghosts. There’s demonic cab driver, Ghost of Christmas Past (David Johanson), the nymph Ghost of Christmas Present (Carol Kane), and the Grim Reaper-like Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Through these encounters, Cross second handly witnesses the events that transpired to convert him into the man he is at present, the miserable lives of James, Elliot and Grace thanks to his influence, and the loss of his former love, Claire (Karen Allen). Will this be enough to make Cross see the light?

The main reason I love this flick is because of Bill Murray’s conviction in the lead role. Similar to his character in “Groundhog Day”, Murray’s Cross undergoes a transformation from a selfish egotistic to a more civil individual. However, there are some moments which seemed contrived and false, such as the one where Cross gatecrashes the taping of “A Christmas Carol” to recite a monologue of what he’s learned due to his exploits. To me, this speech, while intended to be heart-warming and touching, instead seems forced. Granted, Murray does what he can in that scene to make it believable, but it still falls flat. Likewise, almost all of Cross’ interactions with the Ghost of Christmas Present involve her beating him up, which didn’t seem necessary at all. (It’s worth reporting that Carol Kane hated having to rough Murray up in their scenes together).

On the other hand, the plot is a unique retelling of a classic Christmas plot. I liked how it wasn’t a direct retelling of the tale everyone’s heard almost umpteen times, but placed its own unique spin on things. Some performances which stood out significantly to me were Alfre Goodard as the put-upon assistant, and Karen Allen as the sweet idealistic Claire.

In summation, “Scrooged” achieves two and a half stars out of five from me.  It’s worth watching for a different interpretation to “A Christmas Carol”, as well as hearing the Annie Lennox and Al Green cover of “Put a little love in your heart”. God bless us, everyone!