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#202 - Tootsie
Sydney Pollack, 1982



An out-of-work actor decides to disguise himself as a woman in order to get work.

Given how the general comedic premise of a man being forced to dress like a woman has its fair share of problems, it's a credit to the work on display in Tootsie that it does a good job of overcoming those problems. Much of that is down to the writing that creates a sufficiently complicated comedy of errors that's of course buoyed by glib commentary on gender norms. Dustin Hoffman brings his A-game as the actor at the centre of the narrative, who plays a perfectionist actor (what a stretch) who goes to quite the extreme in order to get himself work. Though his character does have his fair share of flaws that don't make him entirely sympathetic, the fact that he goes through a lot of amusing troubles because of his choices more than makes up for it. Hoffman is backed up by a variety of characters who all have great interplay with him regardless of whether or not they know about his zany scheme. Sydney Pollack himself plays Hoffman's frequently-exasperated agent who gets some great scenes, as does Bill Murray deadpanning his way through the role of Hoffman's pretentious roommate. Jessica Lange manages to win an Oscar as Hoffman's sweet-natured co-star within the tawdry soap opera he ends up working on and his eventual love interest, while various lecherous male characters make for great butts to jokes.

Part of what makes Tootsie work so well is the heart that's underneath it. Hoffman's desperation isn't intended to be malicious and he tries to correct any mistakes he makes as soon as possible and ultimately becomes a better person for it. The jokes aren't often as off-colour as you'd expect, either. Of course, the film's not without its problems - the biggest one being the music, which is so downright awful it almost kills the movie. It's quite possibly the most obnoxiously peppy keyboard-driven music I've ever heard and there's even an original song or two to play over the film's various montages that just add some irritating vocals as well. Still, in the grand scheme of things it's a relatively minor fault with a comedy that, while far from perfect, still has enough good scenes to fill out its running time.