Before we begin I have a couple of confessions.
First off, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this movie. That’s unthinkable really considering it’s so far up my street but there it is. I think it’s one I thought I’d seen and I may have watched bits, but I don’t remember the whole film.
And B) I fancy the panties off Dustin Hoffman. I mean, hello – he looks like he’d be a riot (in the boudoir!), right? RIGHT?!
As always *spoilers*, although I’m sure the chances of you being the only other person on this planet who hasn’t seen Tootsie is rather slim.
Okay. Let’s do this.
IMDB Synopsis: Michael Dorsey, an unsuccessful actor disguises himself as a woman in order to get a role on a trashy hospital soap.
Michael Dorsey, Actor is something of a diva and no one in Hollywood is willing to work with him anymore. Except, of course they don’t use the ‘D’ word because he’s a man, so he’s known as a ‘perfectionist’. Nevertheless, his acting gigs are drying up like liquid liner in the sun.
Michael’s just not getting work and things are starting to look serious when he helps out his friend Sandy on an audition for a soap opera. She goes along to try out for the part of Hospital Administrator Emily Kimberley on Southwest General but doesn’t get it because she’s not ‘tough enough’. (Oh girl, I hear ya).
Although you have to wonder if ‘not tough enough’ is shorthand for not hot enough (yawn).
Although Sandy is distraught and just about ready to quit the city and her dreams of acting, Michael hits on an idea – and boy, what an idea! He’ll audition for the part himself as Dorothy Michaels (see what he did there?!) – proving he will make it in this town after all, even if he has to be someone else.
During her brief non-audition – Dorothy is told by sexist pig Director Ron Carlisle that she’s not got the right ‘look’ for the part (I knew it!) – she shows a real spark in retaliation and this saves her. She wins the part thanks largely to the female Producer, who appreciates Dorothy’s sass. They work around the fact Dorothy isn’t exactly a traditional beauty (my how they drive the point home).
By the way, the off-set/studio shenanigans are stereo-typically eighties with staff members smoking in the control room (Strike 4 for our Smoking Films Month) and men in positions of authority being horribly handsy.
Woman are treated like prime rib, the word ‘slut’ is bandied about casually (even by the women about themselves) and they’re lumbered with ‘cute’ nicknames, hence the title of this film: “Tootsie”.
Emily Kimberley quickly becomes a household hit, especially with a female demographic when she plays the part ‘feisty’ and refuses to put up with this schtick. She answers back and even improvises some of her scenes. One particular sees Emily thwack Commandant Lassard from Police Academy (1984) (George Gaynes) over the head when his character, a lechy old doctor, tries to kiss her. It’s well received amongst the female cast members, to say the least.
While this is all going on, Michael/Dorothy is becoming close to his co-star, Julie; lives with his mate Jeff (on a side note, they’re also trying to get a play off the ground) and has started having it off with Sandy.
The latter seems to only have taken place to cover up his new identity as Dorothy, and although it’s casual between the two, Michael has yet to come clean to Sandy about the role of Emily, and how he won it. Especially when she bitterly criticises the actress now playing the role she lost.
The role incidentally proves so successful for the soap that, much to Dorothy’s dismay, her contract is renewed for another year.
I don’t want to go back, back, back and forth on the entire plot but Dorothy and Julie do become incredibly close. Julie is sleeping with Ron BTW but also has a young baby by someone else. She’s treated horribly as you can imagine. Her Director’s also got his eye on beautiful ingenue/expert underwear wearer April (Geena Davis), who he’s been snogging on the side.
Dorothy has also caught the eye of an admirer herself, in the form of Julie’s dad Les (Charles Durning) who’s actually pretty adorable. He proposes to D, which is all shades of awkward. It gets worse when Julie dumps Ron (inspired by her new friend) and Dorothy misjudges the situation, and tries to kiss her.
Julie is understandably freaked out but is still kind to Dorothy, telling her that she really does mean the world to her but that she just cannot right now. Especially not when her dad’s feelings are on the line.
This prompts a final scene with Dorothy as Emily Kimberley that will change the course of their relationship forever, and maybe even the tone of the soap opera too (you don’t get this on Eastenders).
How long can Michael keep being Dorothy? How will Julie handle the kissing situation, or the fact her new BFF really isn’t who she says she is?
Will Lovesick Les ever get over his inevitable heartbreak?
How cute is Bill Murray in his skeleton t-shirt? How great is Sandy’s fringe?
And will Ron Fucking Carlisle ever sort himself out (ditto: Jon Van Horn?), those sexist buffoons?!
I obviously loved it because that’s what I do. I love eighties movies. When I mentioned on Facebook that I’d never seen Tootsie before, my BFF David was shocked – “But it was literally made for you!” – and he’s kind of right.
It’s not perfect by any means and maybe I’m looking at it too harshly but I do find it sad that it takes a man being a woman to stir the feminist pot on this soap opera. Of course Dorothy is a great influence on the new women in her life and they begin to fight back themselves but it’s a shame it took a male protagonist to get them there.
However, this film was made in the eighties and it’s pretty great to see gender roles challenged in this way (back then).
I do think the whole concept of befriending someone by pretending to be something they trust is super creepy, call me old fashioned. I know it’s innocent here and that Michael would never hurt Julie but still. I’d find it very hard to forgive.
That said, as above, it’s a great to have a man witness for himself the bullshit standards by which women are held up. To find himself ridiculed for not being beautiful, for being fat, all those wonderful flaws women have held against them – finally!
As a fun piece of cinema with all these elements put aside, it’s sweet. I love the soundtrack too (It Might Be You by Stephen Bishop is lovely).
My Rating: 4.5/5. The 0.5 is lost due to the ending (too too easy Michael).