Tootsie (1982): AFI 100 Days 100 Movies #69

by Paul on June 14, 2012

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#69 Tootsie (1982)

Director-Sydney Pollack

Running Time-116 Minutes


Of all of the movies on the AFI’s list, the ones that always seem to be a surprise to people are the comedies. Everyone understands why the dramas are there, and you can almost expect the biggest epics to make this list, but for some reason the general public seems to forget that a comedy can be a great movie as well. Coming in at number 69 on our list, is Tootsie. Ever since this movie came out, everyone that sees it understands how funny it is, but the question that I would like to put out today is, “Do young audiences today still watch this movie?”  When I hear someone mention this movie today, all that younger audiences seem to know about it is that it involves a man who dresses as a woman. That sentence Tootsieis often followed by, “You know, like Mrs. Doubtfire.” The very fact that people compare Tootsie to a movie that came out twelve years later is a little sad, but I suppose it is only a matter of time before Mrs. Doubtfire has been forgotten as well, and there is yet another “cross-dressing” movie that will take Tootsie’s place. The other problem I have with young audiences having not seen Tootsie is that they don’t even really understand what the movie is about.

If you don’t know what Tootsie is about, here is a quick synopsis:

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a talented actor with a bad reputation. Nobody wants to work with him because of how difficult he is. He is trying to raise $8,000 to produce his roommate’s (Bill Murray) play, that also happens to have a great part for himself and his friend Sandy (Teri Garr). One day he takes Sandy to an audition for a soap opera. She doesn’t get the part, and Michael leaves to talk to his agent about finding him more work, in order to keep her from moving back to her hometown. His agent (Sydney Pollack) tells him there is no one that will hire him. Michael sets out to prove him wrong by dressing as a woman “Dorothy Michaels” and auditioning for the soap opera. When he/she gets there he/she makes a strong impression on the producer as well as the director (Dabney Coleman).  He/she also meets one of the shows stars, Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange). Michael/Dorothy gets the part and becomes a major success on the show. He/she falls in love with Julie, gets inadvertently sexually involved with Sandy, and Julie’s widower father (Charles Durning) falls in love with him (or really her).


TootsieAll around it is an extremely funny movie, with very serious themes underneath. The outward appearance of a woman is such an important thing for an aspiring actress, and Michael, as well as the viewer, gets to discover first hand how hard it really is to be noticed if you aren’t a beautiful woman. (No offense meant to Dustin Hoffman’s good looks.)

Dustin Hoffman proves in this role what a truly amazing actor he is, and I don’t think any other actor could have done this role as well as he did. I have heard him speak about this role and it’s importance on his career. It is always refreshing to see an actor take a “comedic” part so seriously. I have already noticed that Dustin Hoffman’s movies have appeared on this AFI list a couple of times (and I know that there are more to come). It is great to see that the rest of the movie community thinks he is as special of an actor as I always have.

The rest of the cast in Tootsie is also superb. I could talk about all of them and their perfect comic abilities, but then this would be the longest post you ever had to sit through. Needless to say it’s a great cast with laughs throughout.

TootsieTootsie was nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but somehow it only walked away with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Jessica Lange. Personally, I will always think of this as one of the times Dustin Hoffman should have won an Oscar, but for some reason nobody called and asked me to vote!

My final thought on Tootsie is about its PG rating. I had not seen this movie in years, but I was excited to watch it for our list. When I saw that it was PG I thought about including at least the older of my children while I watched. Let me just say how glad I am that I waited until the kids were in bed. The language was “R” worthy, and the sex related conversations (as well as Geena Davis in her underwear) were at least deserving of a PG-13. It just goes to show that you can’t trust the rating system this many years after the fact. If you ever want to show Tootsie to your children I would suggest at least waiting until 12 or 13 to give them a better chance of understanding the movie’s importance.

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