With most of the humor predicated on homosexual panic, this Dustin Hoffman drag comedy plays like the reactionary inverse of Blake Edwards‘s Victor/Victoria: it’s a film about sex roles that upholds and solidifies strict polarities, styled as safe situation comedy rather than Edwards’s rousing, vulgar farce. Just as Kramer vs. Kramer carried the subliminal point that fathers make the best mothers, so does Tootsie (1982) suggest that men — given the chance — make the best women. As an unsuccessful actor who lands a female part on a soap opera, Hoffman learns a firsthand lesson in chauvinism, an experience that allows him to lecture his costars — Jessica Lange, Teri Garr — on women’s rights. Sydney Pollack‘s professional direction gives the choppy, errant material the appearance of smoothness and integrity, and there are several solid laughs and some excellent supporting performances. But this is a film to be wary of. With Charles Durning and Bill Murray. 116 min.
Blake Edwards’s 1982 sex comedy has the most beautiful range of tones of any American film of its period: it is a work of dry wit, high slapstick, black despair, romantic warmth, and penetrating intelligence. A tale of transvestism in the Paris of the 1930s is used as a study of socially fixed identities turned gloriously fluid, which Edwards sees as the only way of surviving in a churning, chaotic world. It is a direct thematic and stylistic sequel to 10, with the shallow, telescoped images of the earlier film giving way to deep-focus compositions and a corresponding shift in interest from beautiful surfaces to soulful interiors. Very personal and very entertaining, with Julie Andrews, James Garner, and a brilliant Robert Preston.