Starring: Dustni Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr
Director: Sydney Pollack
Running Time: 116 mins
Tootsie is an American film about a New York man, struggling to find acting work, who takes it upon himself to change his approach at auditions, by disguising himself as a woman.
From all sorts of institutions, it seems that Tootsie has a pretty legendary status as one of the best comedy films of all time. Now, my little opinion can’t argue with the might of those institutions, but I have reservations about this being such a classic film. It does feature a brilliant performance by Dustin Hoffman, as well as an interesting story about women’s rights, but it’s never either as funny or dramatically engaging as it wants to be.
Let’s start with the best part of Tootsie, which is easily Dustin Hoffman. His performance is fantastic from start to finish throughout, and not just because he pulls off the drag act in brilliantly convincing style, but also gives a surprisingly nuanced and far more intriguing performance than I ever expected.
In films where one actor plays two characters (or one character posing as two people), the performances can often feel very separated, and as such a little unconvincing. The brilliance of Hoffman here is that, whilst he gives both Michael and Dorothy very distinct personalities, you can always see a part of one or the other shining through when it shouldn’t.
Throughout, he’s always the most active and entertaining person on screen, but it’s the fact that he manages to make Michael and Dorothy both independent and linked characters that’s so impressive, and that has a massive impact on how engaging parts of the story are.
Although I wasn’t blown away by so much of the plot, Hoffman’s performance leads to a very interesting story line about gender equality and women’s rights. First off, it doesn’t come across as preachy or aggressive, but most of all, the film brilliantly shows people’s changing attitudes towards women through a heightened fictional scenario, and that makes for the film’s most intriguing plot line.
Now, whilst there are a lot of positives to this movie, I was also often frustrated by it. For one, the comedy isn’t that hilarious. It’s not meant to the biggest laugh-out-loud movie of the century, but I still found myself not laughing when I really felt I should have been, something that’s always a little disappointing to experience.
Also, whilst the plot does deal with some interesting ideas, the actual stakes of the people involved weren’t so engrossing for me. The fact that a lot of the supporting performances don’t quite match up to Hoffman is a contributor to that, but in truth, I was still disappointed to find that the overall story arc didn’t engage me in either an emotional or simply entertained manner.
Overall, whilst I did like Tootsie, thanks to Dustin Hoffman’s excellent performance(s) and some surprisingly interesting and original themes, it was often a less engrossing and entertaining watch than it perhaps wanted to be. Engaging it definitely is, but a true classic? I’m not so sure. And that’s why I’m giving Tootsie a 7.2.