AFI 100: Tootsie

“My friend Pete and I are doing this thing where every night we are going to watch one of AFI’s top 100 movies.”

“How many you going though?”

“Well I only have Star Wars and Tootsie, so we just keep watching those two over and over.”

I’m fairing better than Liz Lemon in my quest to watch the AFI 100, but, when Sydney Pollack died last week, Tootsie was my go-to movie as well. It’s not on my my list, but I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered.

Verdict: it certainly is, though for reasons entirely different than I recall. I was 11 when I saw the film in the theater and, at the time, enjoyed it primarily because Dustin Hoffman played a man who dressed up like a woman. It was only watching the film as an adult that I recognized that Hoffman does no such thing: he plays a man (Michael Dorsey) and he plays a woman (Dorothy Michaels), but at no time does he play a man playing a woman, at least in the sense of talking in an unbelievable falsetto, over-sashaying, and never letting the audience forget that there’s a y-chromosome underneath the pantyhose (all while we’re supposed to believe that everyone in the film is hoodwinked).

Apparently the Tootsie script is used as an example in all the screenwriting books (so says Lemon), and it’s clear why: the whole thing hangs together remarkably well, even given the preposterous premise. Yes, enduring the “It Might Be You” montage sequences is like getting a gnat in your eye, but the rest of this film is sublime. 9/10


“You were a tomato!!!

RIP Sydney Pollack
A genius on either side of the camera.

* * *

11 comments.

  1. I keep expecting Hoffman to stark sucking on clove oil while watching that clip.

  2. I keep expecting Hoffman to start sucking on clove oil while watching that clip.

  3. That should be “start,” by the way.

  4. I had remembered “New York is a coast, too. This is a coast.” but I’d forgotten “Strindberg in the Park” LOL I love this movie.

  5. I remember watching the AFI special where Dustin Hoffman starts sobbing while talking about this movie. Something about how the female character he had created was this fantastic person on the inside, but would never be beautiful. He said he suddenly remembered all these unattractive women he had shallowly rejected speaking to at parties and what amazing women he had probably missed out on because of it.

    Yay for memorial viewings! I did a memorial viewing a few weeks ago for Heston and ended up selecting Soylent Green for my own “Pre-1980s Movies to Watch List” and it was excellent.

  6. I remember the phenomenon of this movie so well (from grade school). It was crazy. Too bad the man-dressed-up woman theme died out. Maybe someone can bring it back. I have only dabbled in script writing–never knew this was an exemplary model!! How unexpected yet fun.

    I love the comment by Megan about Dustin Hoffman’s sobbing. I never saw that. Gives a whole new perspective on Dustin Hoffman. HM!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  7. We’re getting into a weird area here.

  8. When I saw that episode of 30 Rock, I thought of you.

    In a totally not creepy way.

  9. Tootsie is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. It has consistently stayed in my top five for years and years and years. Bill Murray! Terri Garr! Jessica Lange! Dustin! Sydney! Dabney! Brilliant writing, brilliant acting and just an over all great story.

    I too started the AFI list one time but got distracted. I should start it up again. Go NETFLIX!

  10. Hunh, I watched it when I was 10ish (using a revolutionary technology called V-C-R, probably Beta, considering we only rented machines in those days), and I recall almost nothing except that Dustin Hoffman (an actor I think I was familiar with) was dressed as a woman, and I didn’t get it. I’ll give it another shot.

    Generally speaking, movies that feature a secret that’s obvious to the audience but everyone else* on screen is too stupid to see it are failures (as cinema-not to say they don’t make money), so it’d be nice to see one where it’s done successfully.

    *Children and the mentally ill, of course, can always see through the Emperor’s new threads.

  11. Lumet has a great role in a very early episode of The Wire’s last season (5). He’s a longsince retired Baltimore Mayor breakfasting with the new Mayor, and he tells an allegorical (I hope) story about his first day on the job as Mayor, that’s pretty funny. Fortunately, it’s not the hoary old “write two letters” story.