As the father of an autistic son, I have a complicated relationship with director Barry Levinson’s 1988 Oscar-winner Rain Man, which for the longest time was the best-known depiction of autism in popular culture, and thus cemented a lot of people’s (mis)understanding of what the disorder is like. But I also can’t deny that Dustin Hoffman gives an affecting performance as Raymond Babbitt, an adult autist with a long list of tics and habits (behavior which is, from my own experience, fairly true to life). And I can’t deny that Tom Cruise gives an even better performance as Charlie Babbitt, Raymond’s younger brother, a shallow hustler who learns of Raymond’s existence after their father dies. Levinson uses Tom Cruise well in Rain Man, subverting the Top Gun star’s cocky pretty boy persona by casting him as a slick operator who can’t coast on his charm any more, and who learns to be more human while in his brother’s company. Rain Man is shiny and handsome, and though it builds to an emotional finish, the film as a whole doesn’t hammer too hard. It’s a relatively mild-mannered movie about an easily frustrated guy, who travels across the country with a demanding passenger who’s hard to know. Rain Man airs in HDNet Movies at 6:15 p.m. Eastern, and again at 10:30.
November 12, 2014 newsreel