Dustin Hoffman plays an out-of-work actor who can’t get a job because he takes his roles so seriously. With his reputation preceding him he resolves to wipe the slate clean by auditioning for a role in a soap opera…as a woman. But his lie gets increasingly hard to maintain when he unexpectedly becomes a much-loved screen heroine.
The man passing as a woman story is one that’s been retold in Hollywood at least once a decade since Some Like it Hot, so let’s do the obvious comparisons. Tootsie is not as funny as Mrs Doubtfire, but is a peck above The Birdcage. Hoffman is more convincing as a woman than the latter film’s Nathan Lane, who has all the femininity of a toilet brush, but less convincing than Robin Williams, who is closer to a dish diva.
He shows impeccable commitment and a degree of self-deprecation in the role, and his small frame lends itself well to the part. He even sustains a more feminine voice than his natural one – something even many drag queens can’t achieve.
Moderately entertaining throughout, the film’s best moments are in the final act. With only a few genuinely laugh out loud moments it relies on the performances of its lead actors to sell the concept. At this it’s successful as long as Hoffman is onscreen, but the supporting characters are insufficiently memorable to make it satisfy for the running time.