Directed by Sydney Pollack.
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Teri Garr, Charles Gaynes, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, and Sydney Pollack.
A New York actor’s volatile reputation keeps him unemployed, which forces him to adopt a new identity as a woman to secure any roles.
With transgender rights being such a hot and important topic in the modern era, Tootsie marks as a befitting, albeit a likely coincidence, Criterion release a Blu-ray for this week. The film follows the talented, yet hostile actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) who comes from the old Method-style of acting from yesteryear, and he cannot adapt to the contemporary (1980s) mode of the homogenised, easily relatable/identifiable performers. His long-suffering agent George (Sydney Pollack) explains that Michael has burnt every bridge and nobody will hire him. Michael hears of an audition from a friend, and one of his acting students Sandy (Teri Garr) for a popular daytime soap called ‘Southwest General’, and in desperation takes the guise of a woman and goes by the pseudonym Dorothy.
The late Pollack was known for directing dramas and thrillers, and one can detect such styles in Tootsie’s pacing, editing choices, and blocking of scenes. The notable lack of on-the-nose slapstick gives plenty of space for character, which is equally supported by a witty script. Any quasi-farcical moments that do arise – for example, Dorothy almost kneeing the casting director before the audition (ballsy?) – earn greater laughs by such complimentary character motivation. In shooting the film as a drama, the laughs are not, ironically, situated at the fore, but rather circulate the film’s periphery; the jokes permeate the dialogue, and are delivered in an improvised manner that the jokes render themselves natural.
When the film tackles ‘the spine of the film’ – which, according to Pollack and Hoffman is of a man who becomes a better man by being a woman – it is not at the detriment of the film’s gendered politics, which is something that remains firmly on its sleeve. It is also not afraid to have fun with is; Michael in keeping up with the charade as Dorothy may have its power to challenge the patriarchal order of the working environment, but he still likes the ladies, and this has some space for comedic misunderstandings (FYI, it’s mostly done in good taste).
If you’ve purchased the Blu-Ray, then it’s likely you’re acquainted with the positives of Tootise – and can reacquainted yourself with one of Bill Murray’s best, and sadly overlooked, performances – and wish to know the technical aspects of this release. The film and the below-mentioned extras are all presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The Blu-Ray menu has is slick and well organised; the film’s chapter menu is re-titled as ‘Timeline’, and this is accompanied by a paralleling audio commentary of Pollack from 1991 recording (also with its own chapter headings). Further gems are located in the following extras:
- A Better Man: The Making of Tootsie – A retrospective documentary on the making-of this movie. Besides the amusing anecdotes of the pre-production casting and on-set decisions, those involved offer their own commentaries on the gender issues explored in the film.
- The Making of Tootsie – A fly-on-the-wall documentary recording the production of the film. There are some intimate musings of Dustin Hoffman explaining how he felt as a man he misses out on breast feeding, and the evolution of infamous scene from the sit down interpersonal rehearsals to the on-set filming e.g. the tomato dissent. This is a particular feature for the die-hard fans, and for passionate archivists.
- Interviews – two contemporary interviews with Everybody Loves Raymond’s creator Philip Rosenthal showing his admiration for the show, and its influence over his writing (you can decide on how far that sentiment is true), and the other is of Dustin Hoffman using this space for a retrospective look over his career, albeit recalling particular anecdotes one can see in A Better Man. Thirdly, a rare archival short of Hoffman in character as Dorothy being interviewed by film critic Gene Shalit, which may raise a wry smirk in you.
- Wardrobe Tests – archival footage of Hoffman trying out his Dorothy attire. Hoffman in interviews, and not just the ones on this Blu-Ray, will speak vocally on the disparaging looks he would receive from men as Dorothy, and one can glean some insecurity in this footage.
- Deleted Scenes –wholly understandable why these ended up the cutting room floor (literally, as the case may have been then), but one may enjoy where they, and how, they (might’ve) fit into the finished product.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/197064794″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=fale” width=”100%” height=”150″ iframe=”true” /]