R Dir: Sydney Pollack | Criterion | 1h 56min
Plot: What’s it about?
Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a talented actor to be sure, but his stubborn nature has burned more than a few bridges in his career. It seems that his reputation follows him to all of his auditions, as it has been a while since his last good assignment. His agent has all but given up on Dorsey’s career, but Michael keeps pushing ahead and soon, he will need to find work and as soon as possible. He now finds himself in desperate need of serious cash, which means he has to formulate a plan quick, since he has no chance to gain a role as Michael Dorsey. This is what inspires his most ambitious role ever, as he dons a wig, makeup, and a dress to become Dorothy Michaels, a female performer. His turn works like a charm and soon enough, Dorothy lands a part in a soap opera and becomes a smash success. But when Michael falls in love with his female costar, he is forced to balance his options to choose the right decision, which is going to be hard no matter what in this case. Will Michael choose to keep his new found success, or will he risk it all to chase after his potential true love?
There have been several men in drag movies over the years, from Some Like It Hot to To Wong Foo…, but I think Tootsie features some of the finest moments. I don’t think it is the best movie ever to feature a man in women’s clothes, but Dustin Hoffman gives the all time greatest in drag performance, that’s for sure. Hoffman’s blockbuster turn is backed by such names as Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, and Bill Murray however, so the entire cast is strong here. This movie just seems to have a positive energy to it and also, all the elements seem to fall into place here, very good work all around. From Hoffman’s excellent leading role to Sydney Pollack’s ample direction to the superb makeup & costume work, it all comes together well to form the whole in Tootsie. Some moments have less punch than they used to, but most of the film still holds up well, not too dated at all, to be honest. The idea of a man in women’s clothes isn’t as outlandish as it was at the time, but the film works just as well and in the end, that is what matters.
His career is filled with memorable performances, but Dustin Hoffman really shines when he takes on an unusual role, such as in Tootsie. He seems to adapt to the more quirky roles well and here, he certainly gets the chance to tackle a stretch character. I can’t say he looks good as a woman, but Hoffman handles the transition well, even taking on some mannerisms better than expected. But his exterior is just the start here, as Hoffman also makes sure his emotional depth is used, especially in a few very vital scenes, that just play to perfection. We’ve come to expect excellence from Hoffman and once again here, he more than lives up to our expectations. You can also see Hoffman in such films as Rain Man, Wag the Dog, Kramer vs. Kramer, Midnight Cowboy, Straw Dogs, and The Graduate. The cast also includes Jessica Lange (Cousin Bette, Titus), Bill Murray (Caddyshack, Rushmore), Dabney Coleman (WarGames, Young Doctors In Love), Teri Garr (A Simple Wish, After Hours), Geena Davis (Thelma & Louise, Cutthroat Island), and Charles Durning (State and Main, One Fine Day).
Video: How’s it look?
Criterion has set the bar very high with their catalog releases, but they do it the right way and they receive accolades based on their merit. With good reason. A brand new 4K transfer was made for this Blu-ray release and it shows – every bit of it. It’s been a few years since I sat down and watched the previous DVD version, but after looking at this new Blu-ray I’ll never break out that DVD again. This transfer really makes all the difference in the world. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image looks fresh, clean, crisp and new. Colors are vibrant and seem to bounce off the screen, the detail has been vastly improved bringing a “dingy” 80’s movie into the 21st century. Flesh tones seem a bit more level as well and the entire film seems to have much more of a “film” like look to it. Kudos once again to Criterion for doing it right the first time.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Who says you need 7, 9 or 11 channels of audio to have a movie sound good? Criterion has provided an LPCM mono mix for Tootsie, but it’s ok. Really, it’s ok. The new mix was made for the Blu-ray and it’s very evident that a substantial amount of time has gone into this mix. Vocals are much more clear and precise and everything seems a bit more even. Dave Grusin’s soundtrack, saxophone and all, sounds the part as well. Granted with only one channel, the range is a bit limited but by and large this is the best the movie has ever sounded.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Tootsie has actually been released by Criterion in the past as one of their LaserDiscs. Thankfully a lot of new content has been added, though the same audio commentary by Sydney Pollack (who, sadly, passed away in 2008) is still present.
- Audio Commentary – Originally recorded for the LaserDisc version in 1991, Director Sydney Pollack offers up a very nice audio commentary. He’s very poignant, matter of fact and his attention to detail was second to none. It’s a shame Mr. Pollack left us so early, but this track is a great listen.
- A Better Man: The Making of Tootsie – A newer documentary, released in 2007, is probably the most robust supplement on the disc (alongside the audio commentary). Running at 70 minutes, pretty much the whole gamut is covered here. We get insight on the production of the film, Hoffman’s transformation into the character, Pollack’s hesitation to the project and the casting process. It literally covers just about everything you’d want to know about the film.
- Screen and Wardrobe Tests – Two total, circa 1980 with Hoffman dressed as a nurse and next to the then director, Hal Ashby.
- The Making of Tootsie – A true retro piece, this was recorded at the time of the film’s release (1982). We get some behind the scenes shots, some pretty intense conversations between Hoffman and Pollack as well as some vintage interviews with the rest of the cast and crew. I’ll be they never envisioned that this would be a part of a new Blu-ray over 30 years later.
Dustin Hoffman – About a year ago, one of Dustin Hoffman’s interviews for this movie went viral. It’s located here. It was for the American Film Institute’s Top 100 films of all time and was recorded in 1998. This isn’t that interview, but Hoffman sat down with Criterion in 2014 and recorded a new piece just for this Blu-ray. In it, Hoffman recalls some of the challenges of working with the character, his relationship with Sydney Pollack and his interactions with Jessica Lange. It’s a nice piece and it really shows how attached Hoffman still is to this character.
Phil Rosenthal – Also submitting a new recording is Phil Rosenthal who offers up his own personal anecdotes about the project and its long-lasting influence.
Dorothy Michaels and Gene Shalit – This is a “vintage” interview with Shalit interviewing Hoffman as Dorothy Michaels.
What a Surprise
I Made You Some Soup
Amy Let Go
Your Own Character
You Can’t Play an An Animal
I’m a Virgin
Signing an Autograph