Rain Man (1988)
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Four directors, six screenwriters, two cinematographers, eight producers, writers strikes, crew change, and a studio fighting for its life.
All of the above are common knowledge but it doesn't hurt to remember these facts when viewing the award wining triumph of a movie that stands the test of time today. The film is so simple in structure it really needed something special to pull it out of the prospective banality of being "just another road movie about finding oneself", Rain Man achieves something special by tackling its subjects with very sensitive hands and splicing a believable human concept into the story via the incredible shows from its two leading men.
Dustin Hoffman gives a magical moving performance as the Autistic Savant Raymond, the ultimate complement I can pay the performance is that it really is believable, both moving and clever rolled into one artistic result. Tom Cruise is equally as great in a role that called for drastic layer changes, a role that demanded much conviction from the actor taking it on, and Cruise gives the role much depth as he goes from shallow bastard to a very emotive and feeling human being, it's a great show that stands up to reevaluation these days. A performance that seems to have sadly been forgotten in light of Hoffman's film stealing show. With a film such as this you pray that the ending can do it justice, and I'm glad to say that there is no pandering here, it's an ending that says so much because it doesn't cop out, I thank god for those rewrites because the endings to the original scripts would of had me booting the TV set out of the window.
Essential cinema. 10/10
The Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt, a wealthy car dealer living the high life in California. He's just gotten in a shipment of Ferraris and he's going to make a killing on an upcoming deal for all of them, when his entire background comes back to haunt him in a single unfortunate moment during his newly acquired and quite happy life.
Charlie's father has just died, leaving him an old sports car and rose bushes. But more painful than the fact that his father has died or that he was left simply with a car and some prize-winning rosebushes is the fact that Charlie had tried to put his ill-fated past behind him, and now it has caught up with him again. He has to face the reality of his father once again.
This isn't really evident the first time you watch the movie. Charlie is angered at the fact that he got nothing more than some bushes and a vehicle, sure, but he admits he expected nothing more. What really angers him is that he has to face his father, dead or alive, once more; either through faded memories or by the realization that he is now dead and their friendship was never repaired.
When Charlie finds out that his father's entire estate has been left to a single trustee, he schemes around and unmasks who the trustee really is -- his older brother he never knew he had, Raymond Babbitt (Hoffman), who lives in a homey mental institute and quotes the Bud Abbott and Lou Costello "Who's on first?" charade when he gets nervous.
Charlie confronts his brother, who seems as though he doesn't recognize him. And in a moment of weakness, Charlie kidnaps his brother from his home, drives him back to California, and attempts to squeeze the money out of Raymond, who has no holding on the concept of money at all.
Despite his lack of understanding regarding monetary value, Raymond is an idiot savant, and Charlie takes advantage of Raymond's mathematical skills by taking him to Las Vegas to count cards. After achieving a fortune they are thrown out of the casinos and left to face charges of kidnapping. The problem is, by the time it's all over, Charlie has formed an odd sort of bond with his brother. Long after the laughs settle the emotional impact of the story sinks in.
The ending is the sort of rare conclusion that brings tears to the eyes. Throughout the film, Charlie is an arrogant, ignorant, greedy businessman who cares of no one but himself. By the end, however, he has learned more than he has in his entire lifetime from the brother he never had. And unlike a lot of the buddy films out there, we get to see the bonding between Charlie and his big brother, Raymond, form on a daily basis, until it is brought to a standstill.
Dustin Hoffman gives his best performance in "Rain Man," one of such unmatched strength and brilliance that we often feel that we are really watching an autistic man on screen. Raymond Babbitt is one of the most memorable characters you will ever encounter as a viewer, and though Dustin Hoffman isn't necessarily a favorite actor of mine, I place his performance in "Rain Man" as one of the most convincing and touching performances of all time.
Trying to put the reason that "Rain Man" is so great into words is simply impossible. It's got everything. And as humorous as Raymond Babbitt becomes, he never seems unreal or obnoxious. As I watch him every time I watch the movie, I completely forget Dustin Hoffman is playing him until I mentally remark on how well he is doing so. This is movie magic, folks.
Hollywood has a fascination with characters like Forrest Gump and Raymond Babbitt, but -- even more so than Gump -- Raymond is never annoying. (That's not saying that Gump is, but...Raymond is even more touching and realistic.) Raymond is a fair bit more impaired than Forrest, and we feel for him even more (though which is the better film I could never say).
By all means, see this movie. Drop whatever you're doing and rent it, buy it, watch it over and over. It's amazing. I don't care if I sound like a mainstream critic trying to get my quotes on the new Special Edition box of the DVD (yes, please!), I love this movie and I can't say enough good things about it.
Hedeen's Outlook: 10/10 **** A+
The film is built around its two assured central performances. Hoffman gives an excellent portrayal of a man with autism, totally unable to comprehend the real world around him. Cruise is no less impressive. While he is essentially playing to type, his character's attitude changes so gradually throughout the film that you barely notice, and without Cruise's subtle performance this transformation would be much less credible.
This is a highly commendable film, which, despite tackling a tricky subject, refuses to succumb to sentimentality. In giving autism such publicity, the film has hopefully helped to lessen the stigma brought on by ignorance of this condition.
Rain Man's great success is that it shows the way forward for issue driven movies in Hollywood. Its success at the box office demonstrates that taking a risk can pay off in spades, provided that the film is good enough.