Life Lessons from Movies


In Comedy, Movies on May 14, 2013 at 11:04 PM

Tootsie (1982) is a comedy directed by Sydney Pollack about Michael Dorsey/ Dorothy Michaels (Dustin Hoffman), a temperamental, struggling actor who decides to impersonate a woman in order to get a part on a soap opera, then learns firsthand what it is like to be treated like a woman, all while falling in love with a co-star, Julie (Jessica Lange).

Life Lesson:

You’ll have more empathy for others if you put yourself in their shoes.

Movie Scene:

Michael: “I just did it for the work. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody, especially you.”

Julie: “I miss Dorothy.”

Michael: “You don’t have to. She’s right here. And she misses you. Look, you don’t know me from Adam. But I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man. You know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress.”

  1. In the “Special Features” section of the DVD, director Sydney Pollack states that he initially refused to direct the film “Tootsie” because he saw it as just a farce. He needed it to be more than “men in drag,” he needed it to have “a spine.”

    Sydney Pollack: “My problem with it, and maybe it’s because I’m not essentially a comedy director, was, I kept looking for the meat, and saying, well ok, I don’t think I know how to sustain this sort of one joke that gets complicated because complications befall on him, but I couldn’t know what to make it about. I didn’t know what to make it about, other than the joke. So I said ‘no.'”

    Dustin Hoffman: “And I remember him saying, ‘guys’, he was very nice, ‘I can’t direct this.I see you running around in a dress. What’s the spine of this movie guys?’ And I looked at Murray [Schisgal], ‘Murray, how do we talk this guy into doing the movie? Tell him what the spine is.’ And Murray goes like this, ‘ah …’ You know he’s been been Rabbinical all his life, ‘ahh, I think it’s the story of a person who becomes a man, a better man by having been a woman.'”

    Sydney Pollack: “I suddenly felt that we’ve come upon something. That if that line, was you know Michael, being a woman has made a man out of you, I would know what to make the picture about. So we started to rethink the picture on that basis. This is the story about a man who becomes a better man by imitating a woman. So now, now certain questions you can ask: In what way does he become a better man, and that makes you say, well, in what way is he not a good man to start with? So now you can dramatize that. Now you have sort of a path to go and it starts to be in the service of something instead of just funny, instead of just jokes.”

    The above is evidence that at least some movies are consciously made to be about something more than entertainment. Some filmmakers want to say something meaningful through their movies, and I want to capture what those messages are. They are treasures.

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