The Best Picture Winners: Rain Man (1988)

| January 7, 2018

Oscar’s 90th birthday is just 54 days away and to celebrate, every other day from now through March 4th, I will be taking a look at each and every film selected for his top award – the good, the bad and the sometimes not-so deserving

Here’s a confession: When I saw Rain Man in 1988, I had never even heard of autism. Until I saw Dustin Hoffman’s performance, I had no idea that anyone like Raymond Babbitt even existed.  Maybe that’s an educational by-product that show how important the movies can be.  Maybe I just missed something.

Revisiting the film last week I’m still impressed that director Barry Levinson relinquishes the trappings of the standard “Spotlight Disease” movie and turns it into a lovely, emotional journey of one man’s life that is changed by the brother he never knew he had. Tom Cruise plays a self-absorbed hustler who learns that his estranged father has passed and left a fortune to his older brother. The movie then becomes a journey of discovery as the journey changes Charlie’s selfish heart.

The anchor of the film is Dustin Hoffman who disappears inside the mind of Raymond, who suffers from a childhood development disorder called Asperger Syndrome, a condition associate with autism. His peculiar body language, his rotating vocabulary and his odd obsession with “The People’s Court” make him endearing but mostly made him fodder for stand-up comedians and Late Show monologues. This made it one of the most talked about films of the year and sadly the most joked about.

I like the film very much.  It is sweet, with a big old heart.  But . . . Best Picture?  I don’t know.  This seems like overpraise in a year that gave us The Last Temptation of Christ, Bull Durham, The Accidental Tourist, A World Apart, Big, Another Woman, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Dangerous Liaisons, The Accused, Working Girl, Mississippi Burning, and Wings of Desire.  Don’t you think?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.