Rain Man

When it opened, this 1988 Oscar winner sounded like a worst-case scenario for the most lachrymose movie of the year: Tom Cruise attends the funeral of his long-estranged father and discovers that the entire estate has been left to an older brother (Dustin Hoffman) whose existence he's never known about—an autistic, institutionalized idiot savant with a photographic memory for numbers. He abducts his brother in an attempt to claim half of the inheritance, but in the course of a cross-country journey gradually learns to care for his sibling. Fortunately, the script by Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow isn't half bad, and both Barry Levinson's direction and the performances are agreeably restrained. Valeria Golino is appealing as Cruise's girlfriend; Hoffman makes his character pretty believable without milking the part for pathos and tears, and it's nice to see Cruise working for a change in a context that isn't determined by hard sell and hype. R, 133 min.

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