Sunday, February 24, 2013
"Tootsie" at The Oscars
The 1982 comedy classic "Tootsie" was nominated for ten Academy Awards with Jessica Lange being the only winner in the Best Supporting Actress category. Co-star Terri Garr had been nominated in the same category, too; personally, I would have picked the underrated Garr instead. Lange was also nominated in the Best Actress category for "Frances," a much meatier role than the lightweight role she had in "Tootsie." 1982's Best Picture and Best Actor (Ben Kingsley) both went to "Gandhi." Although a comedy, "Tootsie" dealt with just as many serious issues as its competition; it just chose to do it with humor, which typically does not go over quite as well with the judges of the Academy.
The story: actor Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is told by his agent (Sydney Pollack) that nobody will hire him because he is too difficult to work with. Just to make a point, Dorsey disguises himself as a woman named Dorothy Michaels to get a role on a soap opera. Co-star Julie Nichols (Lange) is in an unhealthy relationship with the soap's chauvinistic director (Dabney Coleman) and finds "Dorothy" to be a wise and caring confidante.
Dorsey's perfectionism begins to surface again, even as a woman, but this time it works to his benefit. Changing the script to make it more "real," demanding the best from his less-than-professional co-stars (including John Van Horn, a drunken over-the-hill lothario, expertly played by George Gaynes), and standing up to the director all serve to get him/her noticed.
Like a train picking up speed along the way, each situation becomes funnier as Dorsey/Michaels must pick up the pieces from his deception, including a "lesbian" kiss with Julie, a proposal from Julie's widowed father (Charles Durning), and a late-night physical pass made by Van Horn.
Just when it seems like there is no way to escape the mess that he has made, Dorsey attempts to fix it all...live and on camera during filming of his soap.
The ending is perfect, too; just enough hope that Michael and Julie might end up together, but vague enough that one doesn't feel like they were ripped off by a quick "Hollywood" ending where all is tied up neatly with a big bow. Bill Murray has a great supporting role as Michael's roommate. The scene where he walks in on "Dorothy" and John Van Horn is comedy gold. Still, the film rests solidly on Hoffman's capable shoulders. You almost believe that he's a woman when he is in full "Tootsie" costume and makeup. Very few actors could have pulled it off like he did.
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