Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AFI Top 100, #62: "Tootsie" (1982)

Movie Stats:
Released 1982 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Sydney Pollack
Stars - Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Bill Murray, Charles Durning

Plot Summary:
Frustrated by his long-term inability to land jobs, actor Michael Dorsey (Hoffman) goes out for a part dressed as a woman - and gets it. Lange co-stars as Michael’s love interest, Julie; Garr as his friend, Sandy; Murray as his roommate, Jeff; and Durning as Julie’s father, Les.

Blue language; implied sexy times; one scene with non-consensual groping.

Bad Stuff:
The casual homophobia and transphobia made me uncomfortable. A man dressed as a woman? He must be gay and he definitely needs therapy, hardee-har-har. It’s not outrageous, but it’s definitely old school. You can tell that this isn’t a movie with a modern-day mindset.

I didn’t like Michael very much. He gets better by the end, but for most of the movie it was difficult for me to root for his happy ending.

The soundtrack is terrible.

Good Stuff:
Bill Murray was fantastic. I enjoyed seeing him play “the straight man” for once. I also really loved George Gaynes as Michael’s soap opera co-star John Van Horn, a dim-witted lech who was forever slow on the uptake. Nearly every line of his cracked me up.

On that note, some of it is very funny.

It’s crafted in a pretty clever way. I expected the message to be in-your-face but it wasn’t; it was surprisingly rather subtle.

The Verdict:
Honestly, I was dreading this movie because I figured it would be one of those films that was really enlightened for the time but now, over 30 years later, would seem archaic. I was happily surprised to be wrong. It wasn’t really what I was expecting at all. Yes, Michael learned how to be a better person through his experience living as a woman, but I thought the film did a good job of showing how things are difficult for women in unobtrusive ways. It addresses the small indignities that many women face every day, such as being condescended to with nicknames - like “tootsie” - and how some men just expect their advances to be well-received, without drifting into long monologues about it. I never felt like I was being preached at. On the other hand, there’s a strong element of “man saves the day” (Julie doesn’t know how to be a strong, independent woman until Michael, a man dressed as a woman, shows her) that ran counter to the message, I felt. I didn’t like that. All in all, however, I thought it was solid, still relevant and both amusing and entertaining. 

I give it 3.75 stars.


Patricia said...

I watched this in the summer after high school when I was trying to catch up on movies I hadn't seen. I did this by asking colleagues (at Pizza Hut) what I should watch. This was because there was no internet, and I had no idea how to find a list of essential movies two watch. It never occurred to me to ask at the library.

Anyway, 18-year-old me enjoyed it.

balyien said...

I often think about how we got by before the internet was easily accessible. I feel like I must have gotten lost a lot. I remember when I first moved to Portland, how everyone I knew with a car drove around with a Thomas Guide.