Rainman (coined in this film)
– noun, alias for an individual of exceptional intelligence whose mental capacity far surpasses average joe.
Somehow, I never saw this film until a few days ago. Having worked extensively with the acquired brain injury community and the Deaf, deafened hard of hearing communities, I experienced the 1988 Best Picture winner with far different eyes (and ears) than would have been possible 34 years ago.
Far and away the best thing about Barry Levinson’s production is Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of autistic savant, Raymond Babbitt. His highly nuanced performance of an institutionalized man who seems incapable of surviving in the outside world is remarkable for the frequently wandering delivery of dialogue and tour de force of accompanying facial expressions.
Tom Cruise, playing the much younger brother, Charlie—having no idea of his sibling’s existence until the death of their father—can’t match Hoffman’s chops; his transition from opportunistic hustler (luxury cars figuring largely in the uneven narrative by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass) is barely believable. Morphing from “why I am cut out of the [cash part] of the will” to reconciled, doting sibling just doesn’t ring true.
Charlie’s love interest Susanna (ValeriAa Golino) serves no real purpose other than to provide relief to this largely two-hander drama (the dance and kiss with Raymond in a Las Vegas elevator is particularly lame—only to be outdone by the embarrassing pickup scene of Raymond by the bejewelled body-for-hire Iris—Lucinda Jenny).
By journey’s end, it’s a clear victory for the very clever doctors (here led by Gerald Molen as the loyal-to-a-fault, Dr. Bruner) over the different amongst us who have a much better understanding of the world around them than the “normal” rest of us. JWR