DVDs: Bonus Points Movies

'Tootsie': He's Still Woman, Hear Him Roar

By JEN CHANEY
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008

In honor of the month of the Academy Awards , all of the February Bonus Points columns will focus on Oscar-nominated movies of past and present. I begin today with "Tootsie," the cross-dressing comedy that earned 10 nominations back in 1983.

Watching the new 25th-anniversary edition DVD ($19.98), it's easy to see why director Sydney Pollack and several members of the cast -- including star Dustin Hoffman in one of his most beloved roles -- earned such accolades from their peers. "Tootsie" is most definitely a child of the cinematic '80s; one need only listen to that soft-rocking musical score to confirm that. But with its impeccable comedic timing and themes of gender inequality that still resonate today, it's the rare movie about a guy in drag that exhibits both intelligence and real insight into human behavior. With all due respect to Billy Wilder, this DVD can proudly and appropriately stand next to "Some Like It Hot" on any home entertainment center shelf.

Happily, it also comes with a strong set of extras, including Hoffman's first screen test as Dorothy Michaels, nine deleted scenes and, best of all, the wonderful one-hour documentary, "A Better Man: The Making of 'Tootsie.'" Pollack, Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Terri Garr and other key contributors to the "Tootsie" experience discuss everything from on-set creative differences (there is behind-the-scenes footage of Hoffman and Pollack having heated but friendly arguments) to Hoffman's decision to grab Pollack's (ahem) private parts while filming a key scene.

For a movie that celebrates the power of women in the workplace, there is one bit of irony about "Tootsie": The fact that, as Hoffman and Pollack tell it, comedy vet Elaine May drastically punched up the screenplay, inventing Garr's character and adding new plotlines that finally made the picture sing, but gets gets no screenwriting credit. That goes to the two men -- Murray Schisgal and Larry Gelbart -- who also worked extensively on the script. Of course, the low-profile May may not have minded. But Dorothy Michaels would not have stood for it.

Weepiest Bonus Point: At one point during the documentary, Hoffman breaks down in tears as he recounts how, by playing Michaels, he learned what it felt like to be a less-than-attractive woman. "I said to my wife, 'I can't believe men are that callous.' It's like a Venetian blind they close over me," he says, his bottom lip starting to quiver. "They look at me and I disappear."

Other Bonus Point Picks

More Oscar nominees arriving on DVD today: "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," which earned a Best Actress nod for Cate Blanchett, and "The Assassination of Jesse James," which gave Casey Affleck his first nomination in the supporting actor category. Also worth noting: 1960s's Best Picture winner, "The Apartment," gets the special-edition treatment.

More Recent Reviews and Features:

Curt Fields recommends the office dysfunction in "Slings & Arrows."

Media Mix serves up snappy takes on the latest DVDs, CDs and more.

Also Available This Week

"Across the Universe" developed something of a cult following despite mixed reviews. See what all the fuss was about now that the Beatles-infused film is on DVD. For more options, check out this full list of today's DVD debuts.

Coming Next Week

See space as you never have before when the excellent documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon" arrives on DVD next Tuesday. For a full calendar of what's coming to DVD in the weeks ahead, click here.

Recently Announced

Releases worth marking on the calendar:

  • Mark your calendar, friendo: "No Country for Old Men" arrives on DVD March 11.
  • If only all criminals were as attractive as "Bonnie and Clyde." The pretty pair can be seen in collector's-edition DVD form on March 29.
  • Grandpa Simpson finally has a reason to get happy: The first season of "Matlock" makes its DVD debut April 8.
  • The fantasy world of "The Golden Compass" can be discovered on DVD starting April 29.
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DVD Section

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Bonus Points Archive

Previous DVD reviews from columnist Jen Chaney.

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A guide to this year's Academy Awards.

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PHOTOS: 'Tootsie' and 'Across the Universe' -- Sony Home Entertainment

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