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Tootsie (1982)

The Criterion Collection
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/16/2014

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/19/2014

I make no bones about the fact that I'm no fan of Oscar-bait movies. Most of these films are pretentious bio-pics which don't contain any real creativity or artistry. Meanwhile, movies which actually have fresh or innovative ideas are seen as lowbrow. However, every now and then, these two worlds combine and we get film like Tootsie, in which a decidedly one-note idea meshes with an impressive cast to create that rare film which garners a slew of Oscar nods while also being a true crowd-pleaser. The film has now hit Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a very intense actor who has proven to be difficult to work with. He's wants to raise money to produce a play his roommate, Jeff (Bill Murray), is writing and he wants his close friend/sort of girlfriend, Sandy (Teri Garr), to be in it as well. Michael confronts his agent, George (Sydney Pollack), who him that no one will hire him. Therefore, Michael decides to take matters into his own hands and disguises himself as a woman in order to audition for a soap opera. Calling himself "Dorothy Michaels", Michael plays the role as a very strong and liberated woman, and not only does he get the role, but his portrayal quickly wins fans. When he's not butting heads with his director (Dabney Coleman), Michael finds himself attracted to his co-star, Julie (Jessica Lange). How long can he keep up this charade?

The jumping-off point for Tootsie is one of the oldest jokes around -- putting a man in a dress. Drag for laughs has been around forever and movies like Some Like It Hot were quick to adopt this conceit. Tootsie contains all of the requisite jokes in this category. Michael struggles with buying clothes, making quick-changes, and the precipice of this sort of humor -- obsessing over how he looks in the clothes.

Tootsie excels by moving beyond the cliches of this story as it adopts a decidedly feminist angle. Dorothy Michaels is not a very attractive woman, and she is dismissed at first for this. But, those around her, and the audience of the show, begin to react to what a strong, independent, and opinionated woman she is. For years, we've seen stories where power can make a man more attractive and Tootsie is quick to turn the tables on that. The film's true genius lies in the fact that there isn't a big build-up to Michael's decision to dress as a woman. Through Sandy, he learns that the soap is looking for a female lead. His agent tells him that he will never work in New York again. Following this, we suddenly see Michael in his outfit. This transition not only thankfully moves along what is already a long movie, but also tells the audience "We know that you get it.". We don't need any long, drawn-out scenes in which Michael debates about what to do -- he does it and we are on-board.

The movies does a good job of maintaining several balances. Writer Larry Gelbart had proven with M*A*S*H* that he could swing between poignant political stories and broad jokes and that continues here. The movie's most famous moments -- "How do you feel about Cleveland?" "Taxi, taxi, taxi!" -- are brilliant pieces of obvious comedy, while the film is also rolling out its message about equality. We also get a love story, as Michael finds the woman of his dreams, but he can't tell her that he himself is not a woman. (Did that make sense?)

Tootsie also transcends its genre ties by bringing in a ton of talent. Hoffman may not be the most obvious choice for a broad comedy, but he really sells it as Dorothy and it's easy to forget who is under that makeup. Lange's laid-back approach to her role makes Julie easy to like. Did Dabney Coleman play any other kind of role in the 80s? The real show-stopper here is Bill Murray, who is essentially playing himself. Each of his moments is solid gold. Watching Tootsie today, it's clear that Director Sydney Pollack was from an older age. The movie lingers too much at times and while the overall story doesn't feel dated today, the film's pacing does. Still, Tootsie offers solid laughs and a timeless story about how we need to look past outer appearances. If only the movie had contained footage from the tomato commercial.

Tootsie actually does feel dated due to the death of daytime soaps on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of The Criterion Collection. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing a slight amount of grain throughout, but no notable defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably the reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is about what one would expect from a film this age, but the picture is a bit flat for a Blu-ray Disc. The Disc carries a LPCM 1.0 mono track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.3 Mbps. This track shows a great deal of balance issues, as the dialogue is often drowned out by the music. The fact that Hoffman is a mumbler isn't aided by this inconsistent track and I found myself having to ride the volume control to simply be able to understand what was being said.

The Tootsie Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Sydney Pollack, which was recorded in 1991. We get three "Interviews" -- "Dustin Hoffman" (18 minutes), recorded in 2014, he reminisces about the project and gives a very honest critique; "Phil Rosenthal" (16 minutes) has the Everybody Loves Raymond creator giving his view on the film; and "Dorothy Michaels and Gene Shalit" (4 minutes) is actually a deleted scene from the film featuring the famous critic. "The Making of Tootsie" (34 minutes) is a featurette from 1982 which offers a nice amount of on-set footage and comments from Hoffman, Pollack, and others. "A Better Man: The Making of Tootsie" (69 minutes) is a rather long featurette from 2007 which combines interviews from that time along-side archival comments. This offers some behind-the-scenes footage combined with the more modern interviews, where the speakers are fairly honest. The Disc contains nine DELETED SCENES which run about 10 minutes. They are all quite brief and don't contain any new subplots. "Screen and Wardrobe Tests" (7 minutes) show Hoffman in early versions of the costume and contain an appearance by original director Hal Ashby. The extras are rounded out by three TRAILERS -- "No One Will Hire You", "Teaser", and "Dressing Room Teaser".

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long