Over 30 years since Dustin Hoffman twitched his way to an Oscar in Rain Man, our experts give their verdict on a season of portrayals of the neurodiverse, from Sia’s Music to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
A quick experiment. Close your eyes, and think of autism in the movies. I bet you’ve got an image in your head of Dustin Hoffman being driven by Tom Cruise in a Buick Roadmaster Convertible, repeatedly saying: “I’m an excellent driver.” Or Hoffman glancing at a box of scattered toothpicks and announcing there are 246 of them. Or Hoffman learning the phonebook to “g” off by heart in a couple of minutes. Or Hoffman doing miraculous mental arithmetic.
Rain Man was released in 1988. Watch it now, and it seems like a throwback to a simpler world where autistic people were geniuses, and no cliche about the idiot savant was left unturned. Hoffman tic-d, squinted and stuttered his way to an Oscar in a fabulously mannered performance.