1982, Movie, PG, 116 mins


A sitcom ode to the Hoffman ego. Like Hoffman in drag, it doesn't look at itself very closely; it might crack the mirror. Rather than confront what it sets up, it takes the one joke and runs--till it runs out of steam. Paging Billy Wilder.

TOOTSIE is about a man who pretends to be a woman in order to secure employment as an actor-actress. Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman), a stage actor trying to make ends meet, dresses in drag and auditions for a part as a mature woman at a New York soap opera. Everyone is fooled, and he gets the part. His rise to fame as "Dorothy Michaels" is almost instant, but his personal relationships become a minefield.

The film's problem is its sitcom style, which doesn't really allow for the suspension of disbelief Wilder achieved in SOME LIKE IT HOT. It leaves one no choice but to try and accept Hoffman at, well, face value. As Dorothy, Hoffman's Dorsey is hardly believable as a woman, much less an actress or someone playing an actress. Except for Lange (at the peak of her beauty, playing a sterotype with such effortless ease that she almost steals the film) and Murray (who does steal the film), the rest of the cast lacks comic energy--they're not sprightly enough.

The screenplay is credited to Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal, but many writers contributed to it, including Elaine May; meanwhile, Hoffman's tantrums escalated set conditions to a hellish state, with Pollack, playing Hoffman's agent, and Bill Murray, Geena Davis, and Dabney Coleman around to take sides. The make-up artists worked as best they could to transform the raw material at hand--hiding Hoffman's burro ears and temporarily capping his large teeth. leave a comment

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