Tootsie

AFI Rank: #62
Year Released: 1982
Director: Sydney Pollack
Actors: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning

We worked our way through all 100 movies of the AFI top 100. Even though Tootsie is #62 on the list, somewhere in the middle, we ended up watching it at the tail end of the process. As part of our AFI watching, for fun we were evaluating each movie on the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test is extremely simple - it really is just trying to see if a movie has two named females who ever talk with each other about something other than a male. The vast majority of AFI movies failed this test. Heck, many of them didn't even have two females with names in them.

So I was fascinated to see how Tootsie would do, and of course to watch the movie. I've seen Tootsie several times in the past, but we were watching them fresh so we could see them all in a row and examine how they compared.

The story here of course is one of gender reversals. Hoffman is a brilliant but tempermental actor that nobody will work with any more. He suddenly gets the idea to disguise himself as a woman so he can get work. I wish they went more into that process. In the movie, he pretty much talks to his agent (an equally brilliant Pollack), is told there's no work, and POOF the next morning he decides to be a middle-aged woman. I would have liked at least a little more insight into the progression there. But in any case, of course, the usual shenanigans erupt with women thinking he's got a strange woman going into his apartment, men being attracted to his "female self", and so on.

The acting is brilliant here from all sides. Whether it's Murray, Lange, Garr, Coleman, Durning, Hoffman, they all are spot-on with their emotions and relationships. The dialogue is great as well. It's a joy to watch. I was laughing out loud all through it, even though I knew the story and lines.

But what had me laughing even more was the fact that I kept thinking it was passing the Bechdel test in amazing, flying colors - because I kept getting sucked in and viewing Tootsie as a female! Up until now, pretty much every single AFI movie completely lacked female-female dialogue. Even classic strong-female movies like Annie Hall barely passed - the only time a female talked with another female was in a montage scene where one mom makes a comment and another mom makes a responding comment. It is staggering how rare a female-to-female talk is. So I kept being joyfully staggered at how women were actually TALKING in this movie - only to realize with amusement that it was actually a male-female discussion! That's the only reason it was being shown. A man was involved :).

Still, it's hard to fault Tootsie for something that pretty much every single AFI movie has challenges with. It is sad, through, that with two spectacular actresses in it - Lange and Garr - it could still not manage to have the two have even one talk together. A movie about gender roles and how women aren't appreciated still managed not to appreciate women fully.

So that is definitely something to ponder. But in the meantime, the movie is quite funny, very engaging, and it lifts my spirits to watch it. Well recommended.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100