Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) is an autistic savant, a person extremely limited in some mental areas and extremely gifted in others. His younger brother, hard-driving luxury car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), has his limitations too – mostly in the areas of kindness and understanding.
Unaware of Raymond’s existence until his estranged father dies, Charlie is brought up short when he learns the old man’s entire $3 million fortune has been willed to his brother.
Charlie shanghais him, without regard for his welfare, into a cross-country trip to LA, dangling a Dodger game as bait. Meanwhile, he threatens Raymond’s guardian, the bland Dr. Bruner (Jerry Molen), with a custody battle unless he hands over half the fortune.
Director Barry Levinson lingers long on the road trip segment, building the relationship between the brothers degree by degree. Result is lightly engrossing.
By the last third, pic [based on a story by Barry Morrow] becomes quite moving as these two very isolated beings discover a common history and deep attachment.
It’s a mature assignment for Cruise and he’s at his best in the darker scenes. Hoffman achieves an exacting physical characterization of Raymond, from his constant nervous movements to his rigid, hunched shoulders and childish gait.
1988: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Original Screenplay
Nominations: Best Cinematography, Editing, Original Score, Art Direction