Summer classic: ‘Tootsie’

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman, right) surprises his agent George (Sydney Pollack, left) with the female alter ego, Dorothy Michaels, that finally got him cast in a daytime drama. © Columbia Pictures photo.

Michael (Dustin Hoffman, right) surprises his agent George (Sydney Pollack, left) with his female alter ego, Dorothy Michaels, that finally got him cast in a daytime drama. © Columbia Pictures photo.

Comedy has always had a tough time being taken seriously. Just look at the Golden Globe awards, where there is a comedy-musical category that is most often won by whatever musical is out there (Evita, 1996), a drama that’s kind of funny (American Hustle, 2013) or a drama that has some music (Walk the Line, 2005).

Very rarely does a straight-up comedy not made by a guy named Woody get serious consideration from critics and trophy givers, no matter how often you say, “dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

Tootsie (1982), Wednesday’s offering on the Kentucky Theatre’s Summer Classics series,  was one of those movies (and yes, it did win the best comedy-musical Globe).

Yes, it does have its serious side, looking at issues of gender and relationships. But it is mostly hilarious, following Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey, an actor so difficult to work with he couldn’t even get hired for vegetable commercials. (“I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway. I did the best tomato, the best cucumber… I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass.”)

But he does end up getting hired and takes the soap op … I mean, daytime drama world by storm when he dresses up as a woman and becomes a feminist champion. (The scene where her character Emily Kimberly proposes giving all the nurses in a hospital cattle prods to fend off amorous doctors is a scream.) Complicating matters is that he falls in love with his co-star, Julie, played by Jessica Lange in an Oscar-winning performance.

And while Hoffman and his amazing transformation was clearly the star of Tootsie, he had an amazing supporting cast led by director Sydney Pollack as Michael’s exasperated agent, George. Terri Garr is bittersweet as Michael’s friend and sometimes lover whose own audition for the daytime drama role prompts Michael’s transformation, Dabney Coleman is the sexist producer (poor Coleman was pretty much typecast as a male chauvinist pig through the 1970s and ’80s in movies like 9 to 5 and his TV series Buffalo Bill), and Bill Murray is really the movie’s secret weapon as Michael’s  dry, observant roommate. (“I think we’re getting into a weird area here.”)

There’s a lot to love about Tootsie, but what makes it a classic and one of the comedies that was taken seriously is that from script to screen, everything about it is great.

Tootsie shows at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday (July 30) at the Kentucky.

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