Tootsie (1982) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Tootsie (1982) features Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), an unemployed actor, who decides to create an alter ego named Dorothy Michaels to try and find work after his agent tells him no one wants to work with him. This change in character immediately lands him a job working on a soap opera alongside Julie (Jessica Lange) and famed director Ron Carlisle (Dabney Coleman), which will finally allow him to produce the play written by his roommate, Jeff (Bill Murray). Although Michael has found a steady acting job, he learns much more about how men treat women and the perception of female actors.

Tootsie is an outstanding film with impressive performances

Hoffman has been in some impressive movies throughout his career, and Tootsie is just another one in a long line of classics – but he may give one of his best performances in this one. His passion for his craft is inspiring, though it also leads to his bad reputation. He constantly argues with everyone he works with, as his way is the right way. Yet, there is a quality about the character of Michael that seems to keep people around him, and it has to be his enthusiasm and clear love for the art of acting. Hoffman definitely embodies this in his performance and only demonstrates his own skill when he becomes Dorothy. He is lost in the role and definitely makes the audience forget you’re watching a dude pretending he’s another dude playing a dudette.

Of course, the film isn’t only made funny by Hoffman. His strong supporting cast of Lange, who brings a lot of the drama, Murray, who gets to do some great witty dialogue, Terri Garr, who plays a needy-student-turned-girlfriend of Michael, and Charles Durning, who plays Julie’s father, who develops a thing for Dorothy – all bring a lot to this film. Of course, that’s true of most of the cast here, as everyone gets a moment to shine.  One of the funniest scenes had to be Michael debating trying on a dress at Sandy’s house while she is in the shower. He has stripped down almost to his underwear and she steps out in a towel. He panics that she caught him debating the dress, but she thinks he is trying to seduce her. Their exchange is hilarious at that moment and leads to that relationship mentioned just a few sentences ago.

Final thoughts…

Tootsie is a remarkable film in a number of ways. The commentary of sex roles, Hoffman’s performance, a compelling story, and several truly comedic moments make it a clear standout. It’s a shame I’d gone so long not knowing what this film is, but I’m glad I’ve finally remedied that. Tootsie earns the Must See rating and a check on my ever-shrinking gap list.

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