Starring: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino
Director: Barry Levinson
Summary: A con artist discovers he has a wealthy, autistic brother
Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Hoffman)*, Original Screenplay*, Film Editing, Original Score, Art Direction, Cinematography
It’s clear that Hoffman put a lot of thought and effort into his performance and he deserved his Academy Award. Based on my experiences with autistic children at least (although none were autistic savants), it feels plausible and authentic as someone on the autism spectrum. Cruise also plays his role as a frustrated and detached man abily and knows that he shouldn’t try to upstage Hoffman who has the showcase part, and he has to provide the whole emotional core of the movie. On the other hand, despite the performances themselves being great, I didn’t feel a lot of attachment to the characters until near the end and that’s probably the film’s biggest failing.
This is very much a road-trip movie with a series of situations (most of which weren’t all that important to the story individually) rather than a real linear plot. While this isn’t inherently bad, there were a lot of scenes in the middle that didn’t feel like they needed to be there-that they either advance the plot or build the characters and their relationship in some appreciable way. I will say that the last act of the movie was by far the strongest and wrapped up the film nicely. Overall, there’s some memorable performances here and it finishes strong, but a better screenplay could have made this a classic instead of just good.