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Tootsie: 25th Anniversary Edition

Posted on

Everett Collection


Current Status:
In Season
119 minutes
Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Geena Davis, Charles Durning, Teri Garr, Bill Murray
Sydney Pollack
Columbia Pictures, Criterion
Larry Gelbart, Don McGuire, Murray Schisgal
Documentary, Comedy

We gave it an A-

If EW had been around 25 years ago, we’d have had a field day with Tootsie‘s behind-the-scenes drama. The comedy — about an actor (Dustin Hoffman) so desperate for work he dresses as a woman to land a role on a soap — was plagued by rewrites, budget overruns, and arguments between the star and director Sydney Pollack. But sometimes a movie’s turmoil isn’t a sign of impending doom so much as one of impending brilliance: Tootsie earned 10 Oscar nods (Gandhi beat it for Best Picture) and remains a masterful farce.

”A Better Man,” the engrossing new three-part doc on this 25th-anniversary DVD, doesn’t try to rewrite history: It details both the creative duel and the challenge to transform Hoffman into a believable woman (production halted for a week over makeup that made his Dorothy Michaels look green). An early screen test shows Dorothy pre-Southern accent, and a new interview finds Hoffman reduced to tears over playing an unattractive woman: ”[Men] look at me and I disappear. It’s awful…to be just erased.” Clearly, the film’s struggles were in service of a perfectionist actor crafting a character much like himself.

Shifting gender roles — and a bit of gay panic — were in the air circa 1982, and Hollywood worked through it with Tootsie and other cross-dressing comedies: Victor/Victoria, Bosom Buddies, Yentl (okay, not a comedy, but funny, right?). As love interest Julie (Jessica Lange) asks Hoffman’s Dorothy, ”Don’t you find being a woman in the ’80s complicated?” You can say that again, sister. A-