The fascinating gender lessons of Tootsie
My foray into 80s entertainment continues, and I have to say that while I had been putting off watching Tootsie, it is a pretty funny (and insightful) film.
Like all good movies, there are several layers of humor involved. The core of the plot is an unemployed (and unemployable) actor (Dustin Hoffman) who decides to audition as a woman to get a job on a daytime drama. It works, and his character becomes a national sensation and feminist icon.
Lots of social commentary going on here, and while there tons of gender-bending gags, there's some amusing meta-humor as well.
It should be said at the outset that Hoffman's character is a straight male. He aggressively likes women and when in his female guise, his reaction to men who try to kiss or fondle him is instinctive and pitiless, which of course makes it even funnier. The reason why he is perfect for the role is that Dustin Hoffman can only play Dustin Hoffman, and all his roles are about him playing that role.
This film turns that weakness into a strength, and we get to see the ultimate method actor take on his most demanding role. This is in many ways the forerunner of the role Robert Downey, Jr. took in Tropic Thunder.
In addition to showcasing (once again) the vapidity of the entertainment industry, Tootsie also examines male-female relationships from both sides. I didn't realize Bill Murray was in the film, but he is outstanding as Hoffman's flatmate, who is just watching all this nonsense unfold. It's an usually subdued role for Murray, but he nails it.
In the present age, this film couldn't be made, or Hoffman's character would be gay, but this is yet again a refreshing reminder that Hollywood once produced funny and interesting films.
I remember it being released, that there was a lot of talk about it, and I also recall the signature song in the soundtrack getting lots of airplay. That's another thing we no longer see - hit songs coming from movies.
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