(director: Sydney Pollack; screenwriters: Robert Kaufman/Valerie Curtin/Barry Levinson/Robert Garner/Larry Gelbart/Murray Schisgal/Elaine May/story by Larry Gelbart and Don McGuire; cinematographer: Owen Roizman; editors: Fredric Steinkamp/William Steinkamp; music: Dave Grusin; cast: Dustin Hoffman (Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels), Jessica Lange (Julie), Teri Garr (Sandy), Dabney Coleman (Ron), Charles Durning (Les), Bill Murray (Jeff), Sydney Pollack (George Fields), Geena Davis (April), Peter Gatto (Rick); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Sydney Pollack/Dick Richards; Columbia; 1982)

“I found this polished sitcom comedy to be a drag.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

I found this polished sitcom comedy to be a drag, an overrated crowd pleaser (it was budgeted at $22 million and earned close to $100 million domestically, the highest take Columbia Pictures had ever had for a comedy). This “man dresses up as a woman” spoof asks the viewer to play dumb and in a suspension of disbelief accept Dustin Hoffman as a woman who attracts a wide TV audience when cast in a soap opera. It’s not possible for even the most average person to believe Dustin is a chick without being inebriated. Sydney Pollack (“The Electric Horseman”/ “Havana “/”Bobby Deerfield”) directs, supposedly in a constant torrid battle with the compulsive, difficult to work with Dustin over artistic decisions. It’s based on the story by Larry Gelbart and Don McGuire, and written by a host of writers–most were fired during the course of the embattled film. It also went through several directors including Hal Ashby and Dick Richards, before going to coproducer Sydney Pollack.

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) plays an out of work middle-aged New York City actor whose temperamental and obnoxious behavior alienates all who come into contact with him. The smarmy thesp survives by teaching acting classes and, in his spare time, auditions for parts he never gets. His cynical agent George Fields (Sydney Pollack) tells his lulu of a client he can’t even get him a commercial because no one can put up with all his interference. So the unemployable actor auditions for a popular daytime soap opera, “Southwest General,” as a woman, Dorothy Michaels, and not only gets the part and fools everyone to his real gender, but becomes the show’s big star and a media celebrity. His new popularity makes it hard for the Dustin character to find time to be with his actress girlfriend Sandy (Teri Garr), and he becomes increasingly attracted to the stereotypical soap opera co-star Julie (Jessica Lange). The film focuses on the relationships between Dorothy and Julie, Julie’s father Les (Charles Durning) and Dorothy, and the soap’s director Ron (Dabney Coleman) who is in a relationship with Julie. Dustin’s roommate (Bill Murray) provides some additional comedy with his ad libs.

The comedy rages over cross-dresser jokes, Dustin’s personal relations as a she and a feeble attempt to bring a Billy Wilder “Some Like It Hot” wit to the dialogue.

The film is mostly a crass and forced comedy and is not sharp enough in its simplistic political reflections about women in the workplace to get by alone on Dustin’s showy performance.

Lange won an Oscar for her supporting role.