Tootsie (1982) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white: 

Tootsie is simply a wonderful comedy. Jessica Lange won best supporting actress Oscar, and the film was nominated for 9 others. It swept the Golden Globes comedy section, garnering Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and best picture. 

It is the story of a hardheaded and antagonistic actor (Dustin Hoffman) who lands a part as a female in a soap. He is actually a much better woman as Dorothy then he ever was a man. He also finds that being a woman is a lot more complex than he thought.

His first real shock is when he is shown into his dressing room and runs into Geena Davis in a skimpy bra and panties. He becomes fast friends with Jessica Lange, who is also in the soap cast, but Hoffman wants a real relationship with her. Shock two is when one of the soap actors, called "the tongue" by all the women, wants to stage kiss him. When he spends the holidays with Lange, her father falls in love with Dorothy. Obviously, "Dorothy" understands completely what the men around him are up to, and puts them in their place quickly and firmly. He/she becomes a hit, and his option is picked up for a full year, but, by then, he wants out. In a moment of weakness, he tries to kiss Lange, who assumes he/she is a lesbian. 

The film also features Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman and Bill Murray as Hoffman's roommate. For me, this is a B, and Hoffman was robbed of the best actor Oscar, although it was a year of strong competition.  


Scoopy's comments in yellow:

Gandhi won Best Picture that year. Both E.T. and Tootsie supporters felt that they got screwed. History has offered a different judgment, leaving Ghandi's reputation intact, but deciding that the best film of that year was a completely different movie that wasn't even nominated. Here is how it shakes out at IMDb (nominated films are highlighted in Teal):

1982 Film Current IMDb rating
Blade Runner 8.3
Fanny och Alexander 8.2
Gandhi 7.8
E.T. 7.7
Sophie's Choice 7.6
Fitzcarraldo 7.6
Tootsie  7.5
Missing 7.4
The Verdict 7.4

I would agree with the decision to drop The Verdict and Missing from the nominees in favor of Sophie's Choice and Blade Runner. I think that would result in the right five nominees. Damned if I know how to compare them and pick a winner, because the five films have absolutely no common ground for comparison. 

  • a brilliant and literary drama with incomparable acting (Sophie's Choice)
  • perhaps the greatest S/F film ever made (Blade Runner)
  • a great historical epic (Gandhi)
  • perhaps the greatest non-animated kid's film ever made (E.T.)
  • a great comedy with real depth and intelligence (Tootsie)

I just don't know how to say any one of them is "better" than the others. Tell ya what, though, that's five mighty good flicks right there.


Touching briefly on the subject of comedies, here's how IMDb members rate the top post-war comedies with at least 1000 votes. Tootsie is far from the leaderboard, although it is arguably better than some of these:

Comedy Current IMDb rating
Dr Strangelove 8.8
Singin' in the Rain 8.6
Life is Beautiful 8.5
Toy Story 2 8.5
Some Like it Hot 8.4
Almost Famous 8.4
You Can Count On Me 8.4
All About My Mother 8.3
Monty Python and the Holy Grail 8.3


Tuna is right in that many performances were noteworthy in 1982. Hoffman did win some awards. Oscar's Best Actor nod went to Ben Kingsley, and Kingsley also was chosen by the New York Film Critics, the L.A. Film Critics, and the National Board of Review. Hoffman was the pick of the National Society of Film Critics. Both men won a Golden Globe, since that award chose two best actors, one for comedy and one for drama.

Neither one of them was the people's choice. It was clear from the telegrams and the letters to the editors across the country that people wanted the Oscar to go to Paul Newman for The Verdict. Also very impressive that year were Jack Lemmon in Missing (Best Actor at Cannes), and Peter O'Toole's uncanny, funny, and touching performance as a hard drinking, broken down movie star with a good heart in My Favorite Year. 

Both O'Toole and Hoffman were essentially playing themselves. O'Toole was so-o-o good, but all he had to do was to show up and be Peter O'Toole. The same was true of Hoffman as Michael Dorsey, but the real genius of Hoffman's performance, of course, was his time as Dorothy Michaels.

Hoffman and his friend, writer Murray Schisgal, had created the concept of Tootsie four years earlier. They were discussing the subject of what kind of woman Hoffman would make when Hoffman pulled out a script about an actor who pretends to be a woman in order to land a part, handed it to Schisgal, and asked him to fashion it into a tailor-made vehicle for Hoffman. When you see Hoffman as Michael, the precise and demanding actor who is better at acting than at being human, you are seeing Hoffman as people saw him and as he recognized himself. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • no features

Just as Michael Dorsey would have done, Dustin Hoffman went to great lengths to perfect Dorothy. Disguised as Dorothy, he would wander the streets of Manhattan to make sure he was a convincing woman. He once accosted his buddy Jon Voight in the Russian Tea Room without being recognized, and he embarrassed Jose Ferrer with an indecent proposal in an elevator.

Much more than a cheap-laugh comedy, the film is a terrific entertainment package, and is one of the most incisive films ever to portray the nature of sexual behavior and stereotyping. It was both a critical and popular success. 

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 4/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.5, one of the highest comedies
  • With their dollars ... Made for a modest $22 million, it was a monster hit for a comedy, with $177 domestic box, and a subsequent $94 million in rental income
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Tuna and Scoopy agree that this film is a B or better.

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