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.
By Dave Kehr