This is such a delightful piece of work, a movie that just wants to have fun at nearly every moment, with energetic direction by Sydney Pollack and lots of honest humor in the story/screenplay by Don McGuire, Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal, Barry Levinson, and Elaine May, the latter two going uncredited. Dustin Hoffman’s lead performance of a frustrated actor who dresses as a woman in order to land a role on a soap opera is both over the top yet somehow movie-world believable, as nothing was pushed too far or felt overly strained by the contrivances of the busy plot. Co-starring with Hoffman in this film meant you had to enter his orbit and find the proper ebb and flow; Bill Murray, Teri Garr, Jessica Lange, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Doris Belack, Pollack, and Geena Davis (in her screen debut) were all up to the task. Terrific physical comedy abounds, there are pointed observations made about the entertainment industry, and every single performance is in perfect harmony with the rest of the spirited ensemble.
Dave Grusin’s peppy and chart-topping score/soundtrack is a major bonus, while Owen Roizman’s smooth cinematography never called attention to itself, instead capturing the action with clear focus, allowing for the amazing cast to nail every single joke or comedic moment without feeling overburdened by aesthetics. Peter Sellers and Michael Caine were at one point considered for Hoffman’s role. Dick Richards was the film’s original director, before departing over the usual “creative differences,” with Hal Ashby becoming his replacement. But Ashby was forced to leave the production, as the editing duties on his previous film, Lookin’ To Get Out, weren’t contractually completed; final director Pollack would step in and steer the ship forward. Released on December 17, 1982, Tootsie became an immediate smash hit at the box office, with a final gross of $177 million domestic, off of a $21 million budget, and this was back when money was real.