Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis, Jessica Lange, Sydney Pollack, Teri Garr
Released: On Sale Now
Reviewer: Stu Laurie
Never has a film about a man in drag been released with such heart, and such humanistic charm as that of Sydney Pollacks Tootsie. Released in 1982 the film was a critical success and was nominated for that years Oscars in a number of catagories, and gaining a win for Jessica Lange as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. This classic has recently been digitally restored and re-released by The Criterion Collection.
Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is an down-on-his luck actor who makes his money by teaching other wannabe actors. He auditions for parts but his need for perfection gains him a reputation as difficult and his agent (Sydney Pollack) makes it crystal clear to him that he is, essentially, unemployable. So Dorsey takes action. He becomes a new person, somebody different. Literally. Dorothy Michaels is brought to life.
Dorothy Michaels is Dorsey’s strong, ballsy female alter ego and she quickly lands herself a role in a soap opera on daytime TV. Dorothy/Michael soon meets her cast members and is instantly bowled over by co star Julie (Jessica Lange). this brings with it complications that were unexpected, a long with lessons that Michael had no idea he needed to learn. He becomes a better man for becoming a woman.
Tootsie is not a film about a man in drag, nor is it a film about feminism. It is a film about a man learning to be a better man than he is, about learning to be a better person by gaining an understanding of how somebody else is viewed and treated by those around them. By being placed in somebody’s shoes and being shown another perspective.
What is done well within Tootsie is that the female characters are strong without that being the point. Michael’s friend Sandy (Teri Garr) is neurotic and lacks in confidence in terms of her abilities as an actress, yet when she is confronted by a cheating Michael she does not cry, she does not break. She gets angry, she explodes, but she does not become defined by it.
The characters are well defined and Hoffman does not simply play a man in a dress. He embodies the character of both Michael and Dorothy completely. The details of his performance, both verbal and physical, are incredibly well observed and executed.
Tootsie took years to come to fruition and the work behind it is evident. The spine of the film is complimented by beautifully executed comedic performances alongside heartfelt emotion that juxtapose each other perfectly. Well written dialogue alongside wonderful improvisation provide the audience with interactions that are believable in a situation that is relatively ridiculous. An utterly delightful piece of cinema that more than deserves the Criterion treatment.
As with all Criterion releases not only does the film get 4k digital restoration which looks sharp and very well done, but also a wealth of extras. The usual commentaries are evident, which offer insights into behind the scenes stories as the film progresses but what really hit home are the interviews with Dustin Hoffman. There are three in total throughout the extra’s including one ‘Making Of Tootsie’ documentary and throughout them Dustin’s emotional link to the film is evident. As he speaks about the treatment he experienced when in the character of Tootsie tears spring to his eyes and he has to fight to keep his emotions in check.
The two well made ‘Making of’ documentaries also offer behind the scenes insights into casting and the long process of getting the film from conception to the screen, including all of the changes along the way. Along with these are deleted scenes and screen and wardrobe test footage.
As with most Criterion Collection releases the the extra’s are well executed and plentiful. As well as the DVD extra’s there is a essay included on the inside slip of the case by film critic Michael Sragow.
Tootsie is a honest and humanistic story of a man trying to make his way in the industry he loves. In doing so, he learns more about himself and people in general than he ever thought possible. With excellent DVD extra’s this Criterion release is well worth the purchase. Go, Tootsie, Go.