Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When Harry & Sally Met Tootsie: A Two Part Study of Sex & Gender Roles in 1980’s American Cinema, Part 1

Wow, this post suddenly looks way more academic than it will ever hope to be. What a difference a title makes, eh? As well as that title would serve to preface a masters thesis at Mt. Holyoke, I assure you there will be no burning of bras or discoveries of inner sisterhood on this blog. Just reviews of the classic comedies I was lucky enough to catch on a DVD double feature last Saturday. Woot.

First up was Tootsie, the Dustin Hoffman drag classic so well regarded that it earned a healthy spot in the low 60’s on the AFI top 100 as well as coming in second to only Some Like It Hot on AFI’s comedy list. (Note to self for future post: investigate AFI’s fetish for drag comedies). But is the movie still worth its high heels and prosthetic boobs? Pretty much. Hoffman is at his peak portraying Michael Dorsey, a stage actor with such high standards (or maybe he’s just pretentious) that directors actively shun him. His need for cash combined with a gal pal’s tales of gender bias woe leads him to auditioning for a soap in said heels n’ boobs. He lands the part the part of a take no prisoners hospital administrator and before you can say “holy Mrs. Doubtfire, Batman!” he’s an inspiration to women everywhere.

The movie rides high on the shoulders of not only Hoffman but an inspired roster of co-stars including Teri Garr, Bill Murray, director Sydney Pollack, Dabney Coleman, and the dearly departed Charles Durning. Jessica Lange is in there too, and apparently she got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, but she did very little for me in her role as part of the love tetrahedron (triangle doesn’t begin to describe it) that ensues. Tootsie does a remarkable job at straddling genres with relative ease. The drag jokes take the high road (nary a genitalia gag in sight!), the social commentary isn’t force fed, and it gives the viewer an appreciation for the art of acting without feeling self congratulatory. Swell job, Toots.
Grade: A-

Coming soon: When Harry Met Sally

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