One thing I didn’t notice when this was new was how until Michael shows up for work as Dorothy, no woman has the courage (might one say balls?) to call out a man for treating her like shit, for objectifying her. It takes a man to do that. I don’t have any political point to make about this. It was still fairly early in the modern feminist movement, and I wonder if even those women really took note of it. (Maybe they did, and I just missed it.) But it’s ironic, at least, isn’t it?
Dustin Hoffman is one of our more unlikely movie stars. He’s short, he’s not handsome, and I don’t think he has ever been cast as an action hero. Actually, that might have been a fun idea, but he’s probably too old for that now, quite a bit older than even Liam Neeson. And I can’t recall a bad performance, though a few might be judged to be marginal. He has had many iconic roles in movies such as Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, Lenny, All the President’s Men, Marathon Man, this movie, and many others. But it’s been about twenty-five years now since he made a big splash in a major movie. It often happens as an actor ages, though women have it worse than men. He has been seen mainly in supporting roles since the ‘90s, and in some movies that were less than great.
This is one of the great ones. Michael is mainly an asshole, impossible to work with. Example: when playing a tomato in a commercial, he refuses the director’s instruction to sit down, saying a tomato has no motivation to sit down. His long-suffering agent (Sydney Pollack, who also directed) can’t get him work anywhere. Literally no one in town will hire him, until he dresses up as a middle-aged, homely woman to get a part on a soap. He proceeds to upset everyone’s applecarts and gain a big following among women who see, apparently for the first time, that they can stand up to men. The supporting cast is great, with Bill Murray, Teri Garr, and Jessica Lange. Though some of it is a little dated, it really holds up well.