Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tootsie (1982): Enjoyable One-Man Show by Dustin Hoffman

Tootsie is a 1982 romantic comedy sporting a good "one man, two roles" show. It's not that the movie does not have any other virtues. In fact, it's the opposite. The film has several famous movie stars on its list (Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Bill Murray, Sydney Pollack, Geena Davis). It has won an Academy Award (for Jessica Lange's acting) and additional 9 Oscar nominations. Tootsie's directing, screenplay and cinematography work are all just fine. But it's Dustin Hoffman's performance(s) that make(s) this movie a real gem.

Tootsie is about an actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) struggling to get good roles and having a reputation of not being easily manageable. He wants to raise money for himself and for funding a play of his friend (Bill Murray). After his agent (Sydney Pollack) has been unable to find a suitable job for him, Michael Dorsey decides to "become" a woman and apply for a female part in a daytime drama/soap opera. He turns into Dorothy Michaels, a not very nice looking middle-aged woman, and wins the aforementioned role. Dorothy becomes an inspiration for other women to rebel against men's control and demonstrate their individuality. Naturally, being a disguised woman leads to lots of issues and Michael/Dorothy finds himself constantly lying a female friend and "wanna be" lover (in Michael-mode), falling in love with a female co-star, Julie (Jessica Lange), who just likes Dorothy as a friend, being adored by Julie's father (in Dorothy-mode) and almost raped by a male co-star (in Dorothy-mode).

Tootsie has been deservedly nominated for Best Picture Academy Award which does not happen quite too often for a comedy. It brings out a good dialogue, some memorable lines, interesting situations and a lot of funny moments. Sydney Pollack shows very good acting skills and in fact, most of his scenes are amongst the best in the film. Bill Murray adds a coloring of his own to the overall presence of the movie. Geena Davis (in a minor role) and Jessica Lange are both beautiful while the latter has also won an acting Oscar statuette. But above all of these favorable Tootsie's characteristics stands out the performance of Dustin Hoffman.

Hoffman is doing a terrific job in Tootsie while simultaneously portraying Michael Dorsey and his transformation in Dorothy Michaels. He plays the role of the difficult to work with Michael quite naturally and convinces us that his character is not very well acquainted with the real world. He argues with his agent and directors, he lies a lot, he prefers to sleep with a girl instead of telling her the truth. And most of the time, he manages to do it authentically. On the other hand, he manifests even better acting skills while playing Dorothy. It is always hard to play a person from the opposite sex, especially when the audience is well aware of this fact. People are automatically tuned in criticism when they are watching a performance of such kind. But Hoffman succeeds almost entirely to detract our attention from any eventual faults and depicts his "tootsie" with more complexity than Michael. Dorothy behaves as a rough woman when she is in front of or around the camera and as a quiet and sensible lady when she is near people she likes. Both of Dustin Hoffman's characters evolve throughout Tootsie's time span and he manages to deliver this development in a funny way, yet without lacking nuances of seriousness.

Of course, Tootsie is not all good. The movie is quite predictable and you are able to see what's coming far before its ending. As often happens with comedy films of this kind, Tootsie begins to lack a bit of believability towards its end. It is not anything problematic but it is noticeable. Also, although we see some development in Dustin Hoffman's character(s), there is almost none to little in the case of the others.

Despite its minor flaws, Tootsie is a solid motion picture and if you haven't seen it, you won't make a mistake by changing the status quo. You'll find an enjoyable to watch "tootsie" in the face of Hoffman and a movie that will make a couple of your hours funnier.

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