Study: Dustin Hoffman – Research Catalogue (2012)

Meanings brought to film by Dustin Hoffman



Item 1: Rain Man (Barry Levinson, US: 1988)This is probably the best example of Hoffman’s ability to engage the viewer with his character in such a way that you have a greater understanding of someone in the very same position in reality. His encapsulating portrayal of Raymond Babbitt, the film’s co-protagonist who suffers from Autism, never over exaggerates his position in the scenes or how he would react were he not a fictional character.

Item 2: The Graduate (Mike Nichols, California: 1967)This was Hoffman’s first lead role of his career, in what is essentially a coming of age narrative. Although Benjamin Braddock is not the type of character commonly associated with Hoffman over his career, he still delivers a mature yet subtly naive performance, with a clear intention being to allow not only viewers of a similar age to Braddock, but of all ages to empathise with the decisions and dilemmas he is presented with.

Item 3: Papillon (Franklin J. Schaffner, Spain & Jamaica: 1973)Papillon is a film that is overlooked on occasion most likely due to its ‘classic prison movie’ narrative. Though in parts it can easily be linked to more recent prison movies such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redmption, the film has a far more free and un-uniformed feel and appearance to it. The two stars in Hoffman and McQueen lead the film as opposing forces on the same side, as much as in reality as on screen, which gives the picture a very unique quality similar to that of the two aforementioned films.



Item 4: (Thomson, D – New Biographical Dictionary of Film, Little, Brown Books, London: 2002) This book contains an extensive index of detailed profiles for pretty much anyone who would be considered a star in the film industry. The profile of Dustin Hoffman gives reasoning to the relevance of his many varied portrayals of sometimes quite odd characters as well as considering his place in film history overall. There is also a fair amount of background information on his film provided giving a more complete picture of his dedication to his craft, such as ‘often employing make-up or impersonation to vindicate the role of craftsmanlike acting.

Item 5: Review of ‘Rain Man’ (Thomson, D – Have You Seen…?, Penguin Books, London: 2002) This book is simply a large collection of reviews of films from the 1920s all the way up to the present day (year of publication). The writer immediately refers to Rain Man as ‘exactly what Hollywood wanted for itself in the late eighties’, as well as its more than impressive gross for that time and its award success. Some parts clearly view the film in a negative light, such as “I don’t think it goes far to say that it’s the smug movie of a culture charging down a dead-end street.” Towards the end the writer begins comparing the two leads, played by Hoffman and Tom Cruise and how they convey their character’s growing brotherly bond through the course of the film which gives a well rounded yet possibly unpopular view.

Item 6: Review of ‘The Graduate’ (Thomson, D – Have You Seen…?, Penguin Books, London: 2002) From the same book as the previous review, yet this review of The Graduate is more positive. It could be argued that it delves too much into the plot after the summary of his opinions at the start, some of which could be difficult for anyone who hasn’t seen the film to fully understand. They clearly address the key themes of the film which are useful in determining an actor’s believability in their role at certain points in the film.


Item 7: Article/piece on ‘Rain Man’ (Cochrane, E – Empire, Issue Xmas 2010) This issue of Empire has included Rain Man as one of the definitive all-time classics, unlike The Graduate or Papillon. The piece is very concise and well-written making it easy to extract any relevant information, such as “If Rain Man’s production schedule had gone at all according to plan…” and “Just be thankful that studio bosses don’t always get their way.” This is another that provides an element of background to the film which is also useful.



Item 8: Review of ‘Papillon’ (Canby, V – New York Times:, 17th December 1973) It could be expected that such a major US newspaper would comment more on the stars of the film, but no such luck. The only information useful in reference to Dustin Hoffman was a critical comment to end a small paragraph profile of his character in Papillon, Louis Dega.

Item 9: Piece on Hoffman’s performance in ‘Rain Man’ (Strassler,D – The Celebrity Cafe:, 9th September 2012) Even though this is only a short piece on Hoffman’s performance in Rain Man, it comments on how he portrays Raymond along with Cruise’s portrayal of his brother, Charlie, in such a way that the audience are easily able to understand the character’s relationship even though it would be very complicated in reality.

Item 10: Profile on Dustin Hoffman (Internet Movie Database: This profile is very detailed for an article of its form, but is far too brief in terms of information on Hoffman’s performance style and others views on him. It is written as if it’s made up of various snippets that various users have contributed on his life in general which could only be useful for background or reasoning for his mannerisms in various performances.

Item 11: Review of ‘The Graduate’ (Murphy, A.D – Variety Reviews: In places this review is poorly written, but highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the film. The main negatives presented are based on the reviewer’s opinion that towards the end, the film’s jazzed-up cinematics make it tiring and obvious. Other than that it’s generally positive, often adding possible explanations for things but not really mentioning the stars of the film much after the opening paragraph.

Item 12: Dustin Hoffman biography – Career in film ( This website provides a very detailed yet concise biography of Hoffman from his childhood, right through his film career with accounts for his ‘Big Break’ in ‘The Graduate’ and his Academy Award-winner portrayal in ‘Rain Man’ that barely comment of the film itself and instead go into what happened behind the scenes in preparation as well as how they affected his career and life in general.


Unused Sources

Rain Man – Wikipedia article ( The Rain Man article on Wikipedia mainly provides basic information about the film; such as a plot summary, statistics for release and box office, cast list etc. Nothing of any use in researching Dustin Hoffman, as it doesn’t mention any reviews concerning his performance or any comments on his character in the film.

Account/Review of Tootsie (McCabe, B – Rough Guide to Comedy Movies, Rough Guides, New York: 2005)With Tootsie being such a contrasting film to the three case films, I’d hoped this might’ve provided some comparison to Hoffman’s other performances. Instead the piece almost purely talks about the film itself and nowhere near enough about Hoffman’s performance to be of any use.

Review of Kramer vs. Kramer (Thomson, D – Have You Seen…?, Penguin Books, London: 2002) Although this piece does comment somewhat on Hoffman’s performance, with it being the film that earned him his first Best Actor Academy Award, the information was useless without any hint of a comparison to his trademark style or any of the three case films.


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