I’m back with another review that literally no one asked for. But incase you never saw Tootsie, I’m here to tell you about it.
Tootsie is about Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), a struggling actor in New York, who has some pretty strong ideas about his craft. So much so, his agent (Sydney Pollack) claims that Michael is unhirable. All Michael is concerned about is funding a play directed by his roommate, Jeff (Bill Murray). So, Michael decides to audition for a role in a soap opera that his friend Sandy (Teri Garr) failed to get. The twist is that this role is for a woman. In the world’s fastest drag preparation (with no apparent experience), Michael transforms into Dorothy Michaels (also Dustin Hoffman, incase you didn’t catch on), a woman who isn’t afraid to take on the misogynistic men of showbusiness. Dorothy wins the part on Southwest General and goes on to revolutionise the set of Southwest, all while falling for the sweet actress Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange). No matter the challenges thrown Michael’s way, one thing is for sure – Dorothy can handle it and no, she’s not your tootsie.
This movie easily could have been crap. Imagine if this film was made today? It would be so easy to destroy Tootsie and suck out its compassion. A movie that is so carefully made is hard to come by, I think. Frankly, I think I rate it more because it was light-hearted. I might even be in the camp that says it’s harder to make good ‘upbeat’ movies, than intense, tragic ones. For some reason, Tootsie is very precious to me. I really cherish it.
Tootsie is such a sweet little package. It was so…neat. I think it goes to show that not all romantic-comedies have to be shit, and not all comedies have to be offensive to get laughs. Despite the fact that this movie is over 30 years old, it’s really quite sensitive and just plain nice. Tootsie is never about mocking Michael for having integrity. There are no cheap ‘Ha ha that man is wearing makeup and a dress’ gags. There’s no humiliation, and, man, is it refreshing. I think Dustin Hoffman/Michael Dorsey played Dorothy with respect and it shows.
Michael was cute, but I fell in love with the character of Dorothy like the rest of the world. I could feel that Michael was proud of her and was never once making a caricature of women. She was proud, didn’t take shit and was still so goddamn charming and lovely. If my parents told me to act like Dorothy, instead of being ‘polite’ I think I would be a better person. Dorothy was a woman that was loved entirely for being herself. Even though this trope has been rehashed many times over the decades, Tootsie is one of the few times where it feels genuine.
“Oh I know what y’all really want is some gross, caricature of a woman to prove some idiotic point that power makes a woman masculine, or masculine women are ugly. Well shame on you for letting a man do that, or any man that does that. That means you, dear. Miss Marshall. Shame on you, you macho shit head.”
Even though on paper it doesn’t sound like it, Tootsie has some very apt feminist messages. I was pleasantly surprised by the above quote. It was nice for the movie to have a little bit of a conscience. Screenplay co-writer, Murray Schisgal, described the ‘spine’ of the film as, “…the story of a person who becomes a man, a better man by having been a woman.” I know it’s cheesy as hell, but I loved it. It was nice to have a good message, wrapped around real, flawed characters, without weighing the movie down.
I probably sound so stupid gushing about Tootsie when it is a well-known classic from 30 years ago, but man, I loved Tootsie. I really really did. If there ever was a movie that had it all, it’s Tootsie.
Tootsie (1982): 10/10*
*And yes, I will be handing out 10/10s when I feel like it. This movie is a 10.