Rain Man (1988)

(Second Viewing, On TV, December 2016) Movies that age well usually manage to have timeless themes while being set at a precise time and place. So it is that Rain Man still manages to be endearing, largely because it tackles a difficult subject honestly while definitely remains a product of the mid-eighties. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman truly star as the mismatched brothers at the heart of the story: The film would be a much lesser piece of work without Cruise’s yuppie chic and Hoffman’s now-iconic mannerisms. The transformation of the film into a road movie is good for a few chuckles, but it also literalizes a long journey of self-discovery for the lead character. Obvious stuff, but capably executed. Where Rain Man doesn’t work so well any more is in its uniqueness and its treatment of autism: At a time when TV shows are dominated by high-functioning autists being presented as superheroes (and I say this as a confirmed fan of both Sherlock and Elementary), the grab bag of idiot savant mannerisms being presented as typical markers of autists is disingenuous—most severely autistic people are nowhere near as charismatic or skillful as Hoffman’s character … but that’s Hollywood for you. Thirty years later, Rain Man remains a joy to watch, and a striking film in part due to its willingness to give the most reasonable ending to everyone involved.

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