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Tootsie

Year: 1982
Studio: Columbia
Director: Sydney Pollack
Producer: Sydney Pollack
Writer: Elaine May/Larry Gelbart/Murray Schisgal
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Terri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Sydney Pollack, Bill Murray, Charles Durning, Geena Davis
When you watch this - one of the most defining films of the 1980s - you realise just how much it looks like a product of the decade. For that reason you might find it easy to dismiss, but try to look pas Hoffman's huge hair or Sandy's (Garr) shoulderpads.

If you're not familiar with the story of the hard-up New York actor who takes a role as a woman on a cheesy soap, you're too young. Go to the video shop now.

It's one of those films that burst free of itself. Even if you haven't seen it, you know exactly what the image of Dustin Hoffman in drag saluting in front of an American flag means.

And while you watch it, keep in mind that director Sydney Pollack's approach was dramatic, not comical. Not because he didn't want it to be funny, but because he didn't know how else to play it - the comedy was in the final result, not the execution. And not because Tootsie isn't funny, because it is ('Make her look prettier,' the director's assistant says, 'how far can you pull back?' 'How do you feel about Cleveland?' the cameraman deadpans).

No, it's because if you look closely, it's an insightful comment on gender relations as relevant 25 years later as it was in 1982 when the film was made. There's something much deeper here than Hollywood's usual fascination with guys in dresses.

Over the course of three years star Dustin Hoffman, two writers and Pollack crafted a subtle but worthy comment on the way men treat women, and what men have to learn from them. Hoffman's line near the end ('I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man') is the mission statement of the movie.

And Hoffman lived it. Finding the character of Michael's female alter ego Dorothy, he approached Midnight Cowboy co-star Jon Voight in a Hollywood diner pretending to be an autograph-seeking fan, and Voight was fooled.

It was all approached with similar seriousness. As a drama director who had to be coaxed into taking the helm, Pollack steers it well clear of farce.

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