Thursday, June 9, 2016

Short Take: Tootsie

Tootsie (1982) is perhaps the finest comedy ever produced in Hollywood. Several traditional elements are there--the false/mistaken identity, the cross-dressing, the ambitious fool of a protagonist--and they're perfectly realized in terms of the story. The setting is the New York acting world. Dustin Hoffman stars as a rigidly perfectionist actor whom no producer can stand. Unable to find work, he creates a female alter ego to audition for a TV soap opera, and gets hired. The gender-confusion humor finds rich veins to mine in every aspect of the actor's life, including his relationship with his girlfriend (Teri Garr), dealings with his playwright roommate (Bill Murray), and just about everything to do with the TV show. There he encounters hilarious challenges with the show's actresses, its aging-lothario leading man (George Gaynes), and its obnoxiously sexist director (Dabney Coleman). Things get especially complicated when he falls in love with a co-star (Jessica Lange), only to find that her father (Charles Durning) has fallen in love with his alter ego. Director Sydney Pollack keeps the terrific script (by Larry Gelbert, Murray Schisgal, Don McGuire, and an uncredited Elaine May) crackling along. Dustin Hoffman gives a masterful performance. His timing is dazzling, and he gives the actor and his female alter ego distinct comic personalities. The supporting cast, which also includes Pollack as the actor's agent, is nothing less than outstanding. The film was a career peak for nearly everyone involved.

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