Go, Tootsie, GO!
Director Sydney Pollack had never directed a comedy before embarking upon Tootsie. The idea for the film surfaced with two separate script ideas (one of them by star Dustin Hoffman). After some changes and tweaks, Tootsie rolled and became one of the biggest comedy smashes of 1982. Dustin Hoffman starred as both man and woman in a role that led to some big laughs and big award nominations (including an Oscar for Jessica Lange, as well as nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture, and many others). A funny look at the sexes, Tootsie arrives on DVD from Columbia TriStar.
Facts of the Case
No one in New York wants to hire aspiring actor Michael Dorsey (Hoffman). He's difficult, he's pushy, he's bull headed. Michael's agent (Pollack) is even getting sick of him. Michael lives with Jeff, his goofball roommate (Bill Murray), and teaches a class on acting where he's befriended Sandy (Teri Garr). Jeff has written a new play that Michael wants to see produced. The snag is that it will cost about eight thousand dollars to get the show off the ground. Without any hope of working as an actor in New York City (or Hollywood, as Michael's agent so painfully reminds him), Michael must do something to acquire the funds.
Enter Dorothy Michaels, care of Michael Dorsey. Michael decides the only way he's going to get work is if he doesn't work. Instead, Michael dons a wig, some false teeth and a dress to become Dorothy Michaels, his female alter-ego. Michael soon lands an audition for a role on a popular daytime soap opera, which, to his surprise, Dorothy snags (without letting anyone know that "she" is really a "he").
As the soap airs, Dorothy is seen as a major role model for women everywhere, becoming an instant success. Though the role is a smash, Michael starts having conflicts with Ron, the show's director (Dabney Coleman), and begins to fall for Julie (Jessica Lange), one of the lead actresses on the show (who is dating Ron). In-between that mess is Michael's affectionate bombardments by an older suitor (Charles Durning) who is unaware of Dorothy's "secret," as well as his complicated friendship/relationship with Sandy.
Michael learns that being a modern day woman is not easy (and by modern day, I'm speaking of 1982). Realizing that he can't play Dorothy forever, Michael must make some big decisions involving his complex relationship with Julie, his role on the hit show, and a nasty battle with hot flashes.
There have been many movies made about men wearing drag. There is often nothing funnier than seeing a big name star dressed like Bette Davis. Robin Williams did it in Mrs. Doubtfire. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis did it for Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot. Even Gene Hackman was game to get gussied up in The Birdcage. There's just something about big time talent decked in pearls that's inherently funny.
This Tootsie is definitely a keeper. Before there was Mrs. Doubtfire there was Dorothy Michaels. Dustin Hoffman is at the top of his game playing a difficult actor and a sweet, blunt female. His performance was certainly worthy of an Oscar nod, if not deserving of the little gold guy itself. Hoffman effortlessly transitions from Michael to Dorothy without we, the audience, realizing it. This is the mark of a true actor, and the show is a tour-de-force of hilarity.
The supporting cast is excellent, mostly playing off either Michael's frustrations as an actor of Dorothy's empowerment as a woman. Bill Murray is very dry as Jeff, Michael's ultra-strange roommate. Murray has made varying choices with his roles over the years (everything from the hit comedy Ghostbusters to the '90s version of Hamlet). Here he plays a variation on his usual role, which means that he's as funny as ever. Though I didn't think Jessica Lange's performance was Oscar worthy, it was very good, showing off what would make her a star in the years to come. Dabney Coleman is, well…Dabney Coleman. Coleman is such an enigma, a man who literally screams, "If the 1980s were flesh and blood, I'd be it!"
The script by Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal (with un-credited contributions by Elaine May) is quick moving with deliriously funny recipes for disastrous situations. When Dorothy is forced to get to know Julie's father (Durning), an ensuing chase ensues with Hoffman trying to fend off his affections while still staying a "woman." The script has a very funny perception about what it's like to play a woman for part of your day, and it's as if the writers truly understood Michael's predicament (hmmm…makes you wonder, doesn't it?).
Tootsie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen (as well as pan and scan on the opposite side of the disc). The print, for its age, looks good. Though there were spots of edge enhancement throughout, Tootsie is the best version yet of this film. The colors were bright with a small amount of muting and blacks were generally solid. There were instances where the film looked soft and showed its age, but overall Tootsie comes to us in a great widescreen version that film buffs will be happy to see!
Audio includes both a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, as well as the original Mono track used in theaters. The differences between the two tracks are minimal, with rear and side speakers used only occasionally. The sounds were very clear, though you could tell there were many spots where looping was needed. Music and effects were mixed well with only a small amount of hiss heard. Also included are French, Spanish, English, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles, as well as a French audio track.
In the area of supplements, Tootsie ranks very low on the totem pole. Columbia has released only a bare-bones of this disc for consumers (unless you consider three theatrical trailers, some sleeve production notes, and a few film bios as extra material). Unfortunately, the original trailer is not even included, which is a big disappointment.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Tootsie certainly stands the test of time as a comedy. Though some of those hairstyles, oy vey! The disc is well done, though very light on supplements. A commentary track or an interview or two would have been nice. Heck, even the original theatrical trailer would have helped!
Tootsie is priced right and features a good transfer, a decent audio track, but little to no supplemental material. My advice would be to rent it first before you put down your money. If you're in the mood for a funny flick with quick wit, funny slapstick, and a cheesy '80s tune ("All Of My Life"), then Tootsie is your woman.
Free to go…go, Tootsie, GO!
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