Tootsie is a hilarious yet meaningful rom com, that holds up thirty years after its release (except for the cheesy 80's synth pop music and the now dying TV soap milieu). The estimable, versatile Sidney Pollack captured an atmosphere (the New York theatre milieu, the soap world) and a tone that makes this film one of the great comedies. Pollack probably doesn't get enough credit for his talents, because his films don't have an identifiable 'signature'. He has directed such a wide array of material, (i.e. Jeremiah Johnson vs. Three Days of the Condor vs. The Yazuka) that his trademark is quality and intelligence, (possibly slickness)?
The idea that a man could feel what it was like to be a woman only if he was in drag was a bit of an obvious cliche, even back in 82. This could have been the silliest and cheapest drag movie imaginable. However, Hoffman's intense performance as a idealistic and annoying 'artiste' method actor who is clueless about the feelings of women (especially his loyal psuedo girlfriend Teri Garr, who he treats very shabbily ) keeps this away from being trite. We also buy his desperate gambit to audition for a role in drag, since his career is in total crisis. I don't quite buy how he reveals his true sex on live TV in the last act (it's over the top and unlikely), but that's a quibble. It had to happen somehow, for the film to make its final thesis.
Tootsie succeeds at every comic beat. Every one of its laughs are earned, based in character and situation. The script is bang on, despite the fact that it was written by a large committee, headed by one of film history's best comedy writers, Larry Gelbart. Apparently Dustin Hoffman had a big part in this film's constant rewrites and casting (he insisted on the excellent actor's studio alumni Pollack as the agent), and this is one case where the star's input transformed what could have been a so-so eighties cheesy comedy into a film classic.
The cast is fine, (Pollack has been mentioned) especially Bill Murray in a supporting role as Hoffman's artsy playwright roommate giving him a chance to show all of his strengths without having to carry a movie. Jessica Lange is worthy object of affection, but this is not her most challenging role. However, Garr actually touches the heart in a very funny, poignant performance that lingers far longer than her brief screen time.
This film has more to say about 'Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus' than any film of the last twenty years, even much more serious ones. It is full of irony, insight and heart.