Unsettled by his experience in World War I, Lake Forest cutup Bill Murray resigns the shallow materialism of his friends and fiancee and sets out on the narrow path to spiritual enlightenment. This intensely embarrassing film clearly has great personal value for Murray (the real-life parallels become chillingly explicit when a subplot introduces a dope- and booze-addicted friend whom Murray is unable to save), but if the motivations are authentic, the result is anything but. The screenplay (cowritten by Murray and director John Byrum) shies away from specifying Murray’s spiritual achievements; instead of maturing, the character simply becomes more smug and condescending, and the movie’s ultimate subject is his fatuous self-satisfaction in the face of the other characters’ carefully delineated weaknesses. Not one moment in the film works the way it was plainly meant to. With Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, and Denholm Elliott. PG-13, 128 min.
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.