Tootsie Parent Guide
An actor (Dustin Hoffman) cross-dresses as a woman in order to land a role.
Parent Movie 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.
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. Theatrical release December 17, 1982. Updated July 17, 2017
Rating & Content Info
Why is Tootsie rated R? Tootsie is rated R by the MPAA PG - on appeal 1982 (1982 Rating Overturned Rated: R)
Violence: A woman punches a man. A character plays a woman who has been beaten by her husband. A character lies in order to get a job.
Sexual Content: Implied sex scene includes a reference to an orgasm. A woman is seen in her bra and underwear on several occasions. The script includes frequent sexual dialogue. Characters are uncomfortable around a character they think is homosexual. A man mistreats women in a sexist manner. A man dresses as a woman in order to get a job. A man kisses a character he thinks is a woman but is actually a man. He later proposes to the character. Comments make remarks about sexual anatomy.
Language: The script contains to two uses of a strong sexual expletive along with profanities, scatological slang, terms of Deity and sexually suggestive terms.
Alcohol / Drug Use:Characters drink on several occasions. One character drinks to deal with stress. One character appears to be drunk at a party. Several characters smoke.
Page last updated July 17, 2017
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?
The most recent home video release of Tootsie movie is December 16, 2014. Here are some details…Home Video Notes: Tootsie
Release Date: 16 December 2014
Tootsie release to home video in a Blu-ray Special Edition (Blu-ray) with the following special features:
- New 4K digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Audio commentary featuring director Sydney Pollack, taken from Criterion’s 1991 laserdisc edition of the film
- New interview with comedy writer Phil Rosenthal
- Interview with Dorothy Michaels by film critic Gene Shalit, from the film’s production
- Making of “Tootsie,” a 1982 documentary directed by Rocky Lang
- A Better Man: The Making of “Tootsie,” a 2007 documentary directed by Charles Kiselyak and featuring interviews with Pollack; actors Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, Hoffman, and Jessica Lange; and writers Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal
- Screen and wardrobe test footage of Hoffman
- Deleted scenes and trailers
- An essay by critic Michael Sragow