Back a while ago when I got together with friends to Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Nine to Five, we all agreed that the perfect way to end the movie would have been to watch Tootsie. But the night was getting late and people had trains to catch, so we gave it a miss. But talking about it moved it higher on my “to watch” list, and I finally got around to watching it again today.
Most people of course remember Tootsie as the film that has Dustin Hoffman in drag more than half the time. I remember seeing a “making of” segment on TV that included an interview with Hoffman talking about the various wardrobe tests they did with bras, including one stuffed with birdseed that inspired birds to fly down and peck at his chest. Hoffman’s character, a struggling actor who auditions for a role as a woman for the paycheck but sees the role become a hit, enjoys taking the role, and Hoffman as the actor playing the actor also enjoys it. Watching the film again after so many years, I realize that there really is a lot more to the film and why it was nominated for so many Oscars.
Hoffman has often said in interviews that he never viewed the film as a comedy, and his personal reason for wanting to take the role was because he realized that there were so many interesting women that he never got to know in life because he had been brainwashed into thinking that women should look a certain way. The film really does have some serious points to make about gender equality. Some of them are still relevant today, but many of which are probably tied to the early ’80s. As Jessica Lange asks Tootsie, “don’t you find being a woman in the ’80s terribly complicated?”
There is a lot going on as well on the sidelines. Bill Murray is very funny as he improvises lines Hoffman’s equally struggling playwright roommate. Quintessential ’80s actor Dabney Coleman is suitably smarmy as the director of the soap opera Tootsie lands a role on, and Teri Garr is both funny and touching as his frustrated friend and acting student. Garr and Lange were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars for the film. Although Lange looks great, I’ll never understand why she won over Garr. Lange’s character is emotionally dead throughout the film, but it is impossible to watch Garr’s performance and not be heartbroken, and also smile.