For anyone that lost sleep over my prolonged radio silence you can take a deep breath. I was holed up in a cabin, frantically massaging the final chapters of my book. While I did suffer some mild cabin fever towards the end I’m proud to report I got the better of my procrastination, calling bullshit on my ego’s attempts to stall the project any further.
Upon returning home I decided to reward myself by renting a classic film on iTunes. Tootsie came to my attention while listening to Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency by James Andrew Miller on the drive north. Loosely adapted from a Don McGuire play Would I Lie To You? it was brought to Dustin Hoffman’s attention by Dick Richards, his producing partner.
Hoffman — a CAA client — took to the material and fought to package it with the help of Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer, the founding fathers of the agency. They helped to attach Sydney Pollack, then one of the most prolific filmmakers around town, who agreed to helm the dramedy after dragging his feet. Ovitz also helped Hoffman to attach the one and only Bill Murray, a relative unknown in a supporting role.
Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey a stubbornly unemployed actor whose glory days are in the rear-view mirror. Dressing up in drag in order to find stable work, he secures a recurring role as Dorothy Michaels, a fiercely independent hospital administrator. The gig is set around a god-awful daytime soap in the vein of General Hospital.
Within a matter of months, Dorsey’s blind insistence on bringing a sense reality to the one-sided character brings him national attention as he becomes the unlikely face for the women’s liberation movement. As Michaels refuses to bend to any man’s will, Dorsey finds himself falling head over heels with his youthful co-star — Jessica Lange — a troubled single-mother who yearns to find a partner that truly values her strengths and flaws.
I loved the film for simply asking the right questions. What starts out as a farce mutates into something universal and deeply human. A narrative that cleverly clashes with societal convention by examining and upending the underlying notions of gender politics.
Just as Michael Dorsey discovers his inner potential in high heels and a biting falsetto, so we can learn to grow by eternally putting ourselves in others shoes. There are two sides to every coin and having empathy for the stranger sitting across from you goes a long way to putting your gnawing fears to bed.