Filmsite Movie Review
Tootsie (1982)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Tootsie (1982)Dorothy's Renewed Contract:

After the weekend trip to Julie's family farm, Dorothy was continuing to be a real strong asset to the show, but she was worried about Les' continuing advances - he had sent her a heart-shaped box of chocolates. In Rita's office, Dorothy was told that the studio was happily renewing their option to keep her on the show for another season:

You know, Dorothy, you're a complicated lady. On the one hand, you're a real pain in the ass. I've got one of the most expensive directors in soaps...and you've got him defensive and hostile....However, we're getting two thousand letters a week, and we've picked up three share points. And it's largely due to you. You are the first woman character who is her own person, who can assert her own personality without robbing someone of theirs. You're a break-through lady for us. We're picking up your option. You'll be with us for another year. Congratulations.

Instead of being pleased, 'Dorothy' phoned his agent George to demand extraction from his standard contract, but was told it would be impossible: "We can't get you out of it. There's no way out of it. It's a one-way option - theirs!" 'Dorothy' complained: "I signed a contract, but I didn't know I was gonna be workin' for the rest of my life as a woman!" He didn't even care about the salary raise from $650 to $850 an episode. And when he threatened to expose his "major fraud", George warned of the consequences for both of them:

Tell 'em what? That you deliberately put an entire network on the spot? That you're makin' a fool out of millions of American women every day? They'll kill ya!...This is ruinin' me too! Ya can't do it, Michael. You gotta find a way to make it work.

Sickened by his predicament, Michael listened as Jeff suggested that he do something "filthy or disgusting" - to violate a morals clause in his contract so that he would be fired, but then mused: "But I really can't think of anything filthy and disgusting that you haven't already done on your show."

Breakups: (1) Julie with Ron, (2) Dorothy with Les and Van Horn, and (3) Michael with Sandy

Dorothy monitored a frantic emergency phone call from Julie to immediately come over. In Julie's apartment, Dorothy was told that Julie (while drinking) was going to break up with Ron and needed her baby Amy to be watched in the meantime. She claimed that her inspiration to cut ties with Ron were due to Dorothy's assertiveness:

I've been foolin' myself about Ron for too long now. I guess I really wanted you here for moral support, Dorothy....You have influenced me though, Dorothy. I've been seeing Ron through your eyes lately....Why shouldn't you influence me? Listen, you wouldn't compromise your feelings like I have. You wouldn't live this kind of lie, would ya?...I deserve somethin' better, you know. I don't have to settle for this. I really don't. It's just that I've always been too lazy or too scared or way too something...What the hell? I'll live, won't I? Maybe not happily, but honestly. It sounds like something you'd say.

When Ron arrived, he immediately confronted Dorothy and questioned her dislike for him, and was told bluntly: "I don't like the way you treat Julie.... I don't like the way you patronize her, I don't like the way you deceive her. I don't like the way you lie to her." The amoral Ron tried to defend himself: "Look, Dorothy, I-I never promised Julie I'd be exclusive. I never said I wouldn't see other women. It's just that I know she doesn't want me to see other women, so I lie to her to keep from hurting her....Look at it from my side. See, if a woman wants me to seduce her, I usually do. But then she starts pretending like I promised her something. Then I start pretending like I promised her something. And in the end, I'm the one that's exploited." Dorothy was incensed with Ron - but also saw a reflection of his own chauvinistic behavior:

Bulls--t, Ron! You know what? I understand you a lot better than you think I do.

During Julie's absence, Dorothy attempted to calm the crying and upset baby by distracting her with toys, but nothing seemed to work. She even reverted to Michael's voice: "It's OK, it's Uncle Dorothy." In the kitchen, Dorothy struggled to feed the uncooperative Amy, who resisted and had apricot baby food all over her face. After a few hours of harrowing times with the baby, Dorothy was exhausted. However, when Julie returned, Dorothy claimed: "She was an angel." After the breakup, Julie was completely vulnerable and admitted she was feeling despondent and lonely, but was humbly thankful for Dorothy's support during girl-talk on the sofa:

Who am I gonna have dinner with? Oh, God! I hate myself for being like this. You know something funny?...And I don't want you to take this the wrong way. But since I met you, I'm so grateful to have you as a friend. And yet, at the same time, I've never felt lonelier in my whole life. It's as though I-I want something that I just can't have. You know what I mean? (pause) Do you?

'Dorothy' felt it was the right time to stare into Julie's eyes, lean in and give her a kiss, but the sign of affection was misinterpreted as being a lesbian advance. Startled, distraught, confused and disgusted, Julie jumped up from the couch and wouldn't accept excuses: "Don't say anything," while 'Dorothy' exclaimed that their impulses were justified: "Let me explain...But there's a reason....I'm not the person you think I am....Don't jump to conclusions about that impulse. That impulse is a good impulse, Julie. If you could just see me out of these clothes." The ringing phone interrupted them, and Julie insisted that 'Dorothy' speak to her father ("You've got to see him"), but urged him to not hurt her father by rejecting him: "I don't care what you tell him. Just don't lead him on....You gotta let him down gently...You owe me that."

In a downtown NYC bar, 'Dorothy' met with Les over drinks and a bit of dancing. Eventually, he awkwardly offered her a marriage proposal to fill the void in his life after becoming widowed: "I never thought I'd want anybody to fill her place. All that changed last weekend....Never did believe in not getting down to it." When he presented her with a ring box holding a diamond engagement ring, Dorothy dashed away after claiming to need time to think it over: "Would you mind? I just need to be alone. I'd like to start thinking it over as soon as possible."

When 'Dorothy' arrived at his apartment by cab, she found fellow actor John Van Horn emerging from the shadows and awaiting her arrival - and she moaned to herself: "This is a nightmare." He insisted on coming up for a drink, but Dorothy refused. When he obnoxiously started singing in a loud baritone voice, bothering neighbors, Dorothy was forced to concede and called to him from her third-floor window to enter. In the apartment, Van Horn tried to gain Dorothy's sympathy, and then became aggressive:

I'm just an untalented old has-been....I love the way you never let me get away with anything....Dorothy, I want you...I've never wanted a woman this much! (He grabbed her for a kiss, and Dorothy struggled to fight him off)...Turn me away, it'll kill me!...I'll take straight sex.

Fortunately, Jeff unexpectedly arrived home and witnessed the incident. The embarrassed Van Horn was led to believe that 'Dorothy's' resistance was due to having a male lover. He straightened himself up, turned dignified, and exited after apologizing: "Nothing happened here tonight...I'm sorry, Dorothy. I didn't understand. I'm really sorry. Please don't talk about this." Afterwards, Jeff turned to 'Dorothy' - with only two words, spoken in character as 'Dorothy's' miffed lover:

You Slut!

'Dorothy' turned serious: "Rape is not a laughing matter. That guy wanted me...I saw the look in his eyes. I was in big trouble."

And then if the incident with Van Horn wasn't enough, Michael again panicked when Sandy arrived with a bang on the door and demanded to be let in. After removing his 'Dorothy' disguise in the shower, Michael listened as Sandy demanded to know why all of her phone calls during the week hadn't been returned. To appease her, he gave her the heart-shaped box of chocolate candy he had received from Les, but neglected to remove the attached note ("Thank you for the lovely night in front of the fire. Missing you, Les"). She had suspicions about his sexual orientation: "Are you gay?", and then insisted that he tell the truth for once:

Just be honest with me. Tell me the truth. For once in your life, tell me the truth! Because these stories - they are very demeaning to me. No matter how bad the truth is, it doesn't tear you apart inside like dishonesty. At least it leaves you with some self-respect and some dignity.

To come clean, Michael blurted out: "I'm in love with another woman," but his confession was completely misunderstood. Sandy screamed and became hysterical, but after calming down, said she could understand his love for another female, but she still didn't care for his perpetual dishonesty and callous disregard and treatment:

Michael: We never said, 'I love you.' We went to bed one time....You're one of the dearest friends I ever had. But let's not pretend it was somethin' else, or we're gonna lose everything we have.
Sandy: I never said, ' I love you,' I don't care about 'I love you'! I read The Second Sex, I read The Cinderella Complex, I'm responsible for my own orgasm, I don't care! I just don't like to be lied to!
...There's nothing you can do for me. I just have to feel like this until I don't feel like this anymore. And you're gonna have to know that you're the one that made me feel this way!
Michael: Aren't we still friends?
Sandy: No, we are not friends. I don't take this s--t from friends, only from lovers.

As Sandy departed, she showed real rage as she vowed to continue her aspirations as an actress for Jeff's play: "I never allow personal despair to interfere with my professional commitments. I am a professional actress!"

In George's office at 2:00 am, Michael delivered an ultimatum to his agent - to remove him from the show in 10 days, or he would find a new agent. He was distraught that his girlfriend Sandy thought he was "gay," even after sleeping with her. And furthermore, Julie believed he was a "lesbian," while Julie's father had proposed to 'Dorothy' as a "straight" woman. He began to propose creative ways to extract himself from the show and relieve his sexual-identity issues:

I gotta get back to my life. Now you got wall-to-wall lawyers in that office, right? There must be some kinda way to get me out of this show, now...Why can't I die? Why can't Dorothy have an accident? I mean, we can use our imaginations. This isn't the toughest problem...I'm in trouble, man!

'Dorothy's' Big-Reveal During the Show:

During the taped broadcast of an episode of the show, Rita announced a change in plans. A crucial scene, "Emily's party scene," had to be reshot live, because the ex-tape editor had spilled celery tonic on the second reel for the day's airing. The live reshoot would occur in 26 minutes. 'Dorothy' spoke to Julie in her dressing room - first presenting her with a gift-wrapped present for Amy. Julie suggested that she should explain to her father why 'Dorothy' couldn't accept his proposal. Then, she offered 'Dorothy' her heart-felt thanks for friendship and love, but said she couldn't see her anymore to avoid leading her on:

Look, I wouldn't be honest if I didn't tell you how much you've meant to me these past couple weeks. You taught me how to stand up for myself because you always stand up for yourself. You taught me to stop hiding and just be myself because you're, you're always yourself. And I'm grateful to you. But, well, I just- I just can't see you anymore, you know? I just feel that it would be leading you on. It wouldn't be fair to you. I really love you, Dorothy. But I can't, I can't love you.

In the scene, hospital administrator Miss Emily Kimberly (Dorothy's role) wearing a powder-blue tailored dress (with a cortage) swept down a winding staircase as she was introduced as the guest of honor. The scene was set at the home of the hospital's middle-aged Board Chairman (Michael M. Ryan). Emily was being honored for her extraordinary service to Southwest General Hospital. In attendance were key staff members and all the board members. From home, Les, Jeff, and Sandy were watching.

During a lengthy monologue, Emily concocted an over-the-top back-story to describe why she had come to the show. The unbelievable, crazy, concocted and made-up tale told about an illegitimate child, a disfiguring disease, and exile in Tangiers. As 'Dorothy' veered off the script, the rest of the cast and crew stood transfixed in disbelief, and the director and producer in the control room feared the worst:

Dorothy: Thank you, Gordon. I cannot tell you all how deeply moved I am. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be the object of so much genuine affection...It makes it all the more difficult for me to say what I'm now going to say. Yes. I do feel it's time to set the record straight. You see, I didn't come here just as an administrator, Dr. Brewster. I came to this hospital to settle an old score...Now you all know that my father was a brilliant man and he built this hospital. What you don't know is that to his family, he was an unmerciful tyrant. An absolute dodo bird...He drove my mother, his wife, to - to drink. In fact, she, uh, she went riding one time and lost all her teeth. The son Edward became a recluse, and the oldest daughter, the pretty one, the charming one - became pregnant when she was fifteen years old and was driven out of the house. In fact, she was so terrified that she would, uh, that, uh, that, that, that the baby daughter would bear the stigma of illegitimacy that she, she - she decided to change her name and she contracted a disfiguring disease... after moving to Tangiers, which is where she raised the, the, the little girl as her sister. But her one ambition in life - besides the child's happiness - was to become a nurse, so she returned to the States and joined the staff right here at Southwest General. When she worked here, she knew she had to speak out wherever she saw injustice and inhumanity. God save us. You do understand that, don't you, Dr. Brewster?
John Van Horn (as Dr. Brewster): I never laid a hand on her!
Dorothy: Yes, you did. And she was shunned by all you nurses, too...what do you call it, uh, like a pariah, to you doctors who found her outspokenness threatening. But she was deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply loved by her brother. It was this brother who, on the day of her death, swore to the good Lord above that he would follow in her footsteps, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, and, just, just, just, just, just, just, just, just, just, just owe it all up to her. But on her terms. As a woman. And just as proud to be a woman as she ever was. For I am not Emily Kimberly (removing her glasses), the daughter of Dwayne and Alma Kimberly (tearing off her false eyelashes). No, I'm not.

Then to everyone's horror at the end of the monologue, 'Dorothy' revealed her true identity as Emily's brother, Mr. Edward Kimberly -- AND -- as Michael Dorsey. He showed his true identity to the stunned shock and consternation of almost everyone. One of the crew members fainted. Dorothy's voice deepened as he tore off the rest of his feminine disguise - his wig - and unmasked himself:

I'm Edward Kimberly, the reckless brother of my sister Anthea... Edward Kimberly, who has finally vindicated his sister's good name. I'm Edward Kimberly. Edward Kimberly. And I'm not mentally ill, but proud, and lucky, and strong enough to be the woman that was the best part of my manhood. The best part of myself.

At home watching the show on television, Les dropped his sandwich in disbelief. Roommate Jeff exclaimed: "That is one nutty hospital!" In the control room, Ron exclaimed: "I knew there was a reason she didn't like me!" Julie slowly crossed the room, approached Michael and socked him in the stomach - he took the blow stoically. Non-plussed, Van Horn asked: "Does Jeff know?"

Final Reconciliation:

A montage of short scenes followed:

  • Michael walked through Central Park where a white-faced mime walked along an imaginary tightrope (a sidewalk curb) - he gently pushed the mime onto the grassy lawn.
  • The front of a barn-farmhouse advertised the Syracuse Playhouse's NEXT ATTRACTION: "Return to the Love Canal" - a new play by Jeff Slater, with Michael Dorsey and Sandy Lester.
  • In a local cafe near the Nichols' farm, Michael joined Les at the bar and returned the diamond engagement ring box ("I thought you'd want it back"). Unable to look at Michael, Les was hostile (for being fooled and humiliated) but agreed to speak to him outside. When Les asked: "Why'd you do it?", Michael explained that he dressed as 'Dorothy' only because he needed the work. When asked whether he liked girls, Michael simply replied: "I like Julie. I think I love Julie." Les finally saw the humor in it: "Wearing a dress is a funny way to show it," and admitted that Michael was "okay company." Michael asked: "Does Julie ever mention me?" but Les didn't answer and gently punched Michael in the arm. They shared a few beers and a game of pool (off-screen).

In the fnal scene set on a NYC street (W. 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue), Michael was awaiting Julie outside the TV studio while leaning on a parked vehicle. She avoided him and hurriedly walked the other direction when she saw him. He ran after her, but she was closed off and unreceptive, and responded with a few sarcastic questions: "So you're pretty hot after your unveiling, Michael. What's your next triumph?" He started to explain about the new play, but she wanted to catch a cab instead. He was finally able to soften her enough to listen to his apology:

Michael: Can I call you sometime? Look, I don't want to hold ya up. I just did it for the work. I didn't mean to hurt anybody. Especially you. (she glanced away and was non-committal)
Julie: (almost to herself) I miss Dorothy.
Michael: (reminding her) You don't have to. She's right here. And she misses you.

He made a final confession to her that he had become personally transformed by his experience, and wanted to give their growing relationship - as "good friends" - another chance:

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. Know what I mean? I just gotta learn to do it without the dress. I mean, at this point in our relationship, there might be an advantage to my wearin' pants. The hard part's over, you know? We were already good friends.

She smiled and playfully asked to borrow one of 'Dorothy's' outfits ("Will you loan me that little yellow outfit?...The Halston?"). He reluctantly agreed after worrying that she might spill wine on it. The film's final lines of dialogue continued Michael's train of thought: "I'll loan it to you, but you gotta give it back to me, OK? It's my favorite." She jested: "What are you gonna use it for?" Walking down the street together, joking and talking about a block away, Julie playfully pushed him away, but then put her arm around Michael.

[Note: During the film's scrolling closing credits, star Dustin Hoffman received both top first and second placed billing, for both of his character roles.]

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