Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Rain Man (1988).
A film I first became familiar with because of the scene that parodied it in The Hangover and the times it was mentioned in dozens of other films and shows, I can’t exactly say Rain Man lives up to its legacy but it was still a nice change from the other types of films that won Best Picture for years before that did quite well with what it tried. Following Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) in the wake of his father’s death when he finds out his father gave his entire estate to his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) who Charlie never knew existed, it follows the familiar plot beats of so many other road trips based on difficult relationships but finds plenty of touching moments along the way. Hoffman often gets all the credit for his portrayal of Raymond, a genius who can recall any information he’s come across and solve any math problem in seconds but also lacks social skills and often understanding of what is happening to him, and his performance is quite good, but some of the credit is due to Tom Cruise who sees the real development as a selfish man looking to exploit his brother who comes to care about him. Given the age gap and the difference in appearances, the two would hardly seem like brothers in any other context but here they make it convincing and find ways of mirroring each others’ mannerisms in ways consistent with their characters that also make them seem like siblings.
The Real Best Picture:
I’m not a huge fan of any of the nominees but Rain Man was quite good and I’ll call it the deserving winner.