Tootsie Parent Review
Dustin Hoffman has had an illustrious career beginning with one of his first appearances in The Graduate. He went on to be cast in movies like All the President’s Men, Kramer vs. Kramer, Rain Man, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and one of my personal favorites, Last Chance Harvey. Among his other work, he also lends his voice talents to the Kung Fu Panda franchise. But one of the thespian’s most memorable roles may be when he donned makeup and women’s clothing to in the movie Tootsie.
Hoffman’s character Michael Dorsey has a reputation that has casting callers and directors running the other way. Unfortunately, being difficult to work with isn’t an advantage in a town with hundreds of unemployed star-wannabes.
While his agent George Fields (Sydney Pollack) tries to find someone who’ll give Michael a shot, the problematic performer coaches other aspiring actors. He pays special attention to his friend Sandy Lester (Teri Garr) who is auditioningfor the soap opera Southwest General. When Sandy fails to get the part, Michael decides to try out himself. Dressing up in women’s clothing, he calls himself Dorothy Michaels and ends up landing the role of hospital administrator Emily Kimberly. But as usual, Michael brings his own interpretation to the character. Instead of playing her as emotionally fragile, the way the show’s producers envisioned, he portrays Emily as a feisty, no-nonsense executive director.
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And the fans love her.
Unfortunately only Michael’s manager and roommate Jeff (Bill Murray) know who Dorothy really is. And that makes it uncomfortable for almost everyone when Michael/Dorothy starts to fall in love with Julie (Jessica Lange), one of his female cast members. Meanwhile Julie’s widower father (Charles Durning) falls in love with Dorothy, as does one of the show’s male co-stars (George Gaynes).
This 1982 movie earned nine Academy Awards Nominations including Best Actor for Hoffman, plus an Oscar win for Jessica Lange as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. However this slow-moving script comes with some complicated messages.
Part of Dorothy’s appeal with the soap opera’s female viewers is her refusal to become a pawn in the hands of the hospital’s male administrators. Off camera, Dorothy’s motivation comes from the fact the show’s director Ron (Dabney Coleman) uses his position to get his way with the women on the set, including Julie. However, while Michael is secretly upset by Ron’s chauvinistic treatment of Julie, he does the same thing to Sandy, completely ignoring her after a one-night stand and failing to be honest about his feelings for another woman. It’s this implied sex scene, male to male kissing, some homosexual references and a woman repeatedly seen in her underwear that makes up most of the film’s sexual content. But there are other underlying sexual messages and innuendo, as well as a couple of strong sexual expletives. (This language was part of the reason the movie was originally awarded an R rating from the MPAA in 1982. The decision was appealed, and the film went to theaters with a PG instead—as there was no PG-13 category at the time. Parents should note that the 2014 Blu-ray version of Tootsie again appears with an R rating.)
This farcical comedy takes a poke at sexism and soap operas, and is supposed to make us believe Michael is a better man after getting in touch with his feminine side. Yet part of being a man means owning up to your treatment of others. And leaving Sandy hanging in the sidelines without an explanation isn’t very chivalrous or manly.Directed by Sydney Pollack. Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr. Running time: 116 minutes. Updated December 16, 2014
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Tootsie here.
Tootsie Parents Guide
How does Michael justify his impersonation of a woman? Why is he so unwilling to be honest with Sandy? What is his general treatment of women?
What does this movie have to say about sexism on the set? Has this kind of treatment changed? Are soap operas beginning to lose their appeal? What kinds of “dramas” are popular now? Are reality programs like the Housewives series (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, The Real Housewives of New Jersey and The Real Housewives of Orange County) really any different?