Mystery Fest: Tootsie
Plot: A talented actor who has trouble getting roles because he's difficult to work with adopts a female persona and lands a job on a soap opera in order to earn enough money to produce his friend's play. His character becomes extremely popular.
There were a few posters to choose from for this, but they all featured American flags. Why is that? This isn't exactly a movie about America.
I'd just like to point out that there is Tab product placement in this in case you're keeping track of the amount of movies I've seen this year with Tab product placement. It's alarming. I'm positive that the soft drink is stalking me, a zombie carbonated beverage. You start to recall bottles and a conveyor belt in a Great Scot grocery store in Terre Haute, Indiana, a conveyor belt that you thought was about the most fun a person could have in the world. And yes, you committed blog readers of mine, that is the same place I saw Darth Vader and a Jawa.
I'll get this out of the way--Dustin Hoffman is great in this, but Gandhi beat him in the '83 Best Actor category. I did a little research to find out how many actors have won for Best Actor in comedic roles. Other than Ben Kingsley's work in Gandhi, it was hard to find them. If any comedy performance is deserving of that award, it might be Hoffman's two-for-one deal here. Jessica Lange, probably still smelling of Kong jism, won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for what I thought was a fairly pedestrian performance. Good, yes, but nothing stood out and screamed, "Check out this performance!" Teri Garr, also nominated, was probably funnier anyway. They're all funny, and what I appreciate about this comedy is that it really isn't played for laughs. If they did this now, you'd have Will Ferrell or one of those people hamming it up and stretching the idea until it broke. There'd be slapstick, more raunch, and all this improvisational stuff that, instead of furthering any story or developing any characters or themes, would just feel like everybody involved was just jerking each other off. There's improv here, I suspect, in some of these scenes, but there's no bombast. Or if it's not improv, it all feels very natural, especially in those great scenes with Hoffman and Pollack. Or in all of Bill Murray's scenes. How about that Bill Murray, by the way? It's amazing he's able to restrain himself here after Caddyshack, Stripes, and Meatballs. Guy knows where the backseat is, and he knows how to add texture from there. Everybody involved in this seems so comfortable with their roles. Dabney Coleman played sleazy in 9 to 5 and sleazy here and is really good at it though he's got help from his mustache. George Gaynes is hilarious in every scene he's in as the senior cast member of the soap opera, and Charles Durning is as good as he ever is. What makes this funny and what elevates this as a comedy is the writing. It's written more like something from the 40s instead of the 80s, and I mean that in a good way. A lot of the humor depends on irony--situational and dramatic--and there's all this subtle stuff that makes subsequent viewings valuable. You've got Dustin Hoffman running around as a woman, but there's nothing cheap about the comedy. It works because the characters work and aren't exploited. And you've got an Andy Warhol cameo and a great little gag involving a mime. This movie probably had something to say about male/female relationships ("I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man" might be the best line ever that has a misplaced modifier), sexism, soap operas, the theater, and a myriad of other things, but it never does it in a heavy-handed sort of way that gets in the way of the natural character development or the comedy. I hate the music though.