Directed By: Barry Levinson
Written By: Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow
Staring: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valerie Golino, Gerald R. Molen, and Jack Murdock
“I’m an excellent driver.” -Raymond
The subject of many quotes, and jokes of Jeopardy at six o’clock, one may forgot the impact Rain Man had when it was first released. Tom Cruise delivered a solid, yet genuine performance, and Hoffman played one of the most sensitive and memorable roles of his career, but all were just pieces of a bigger puzzle about family values and the re-connecting of a broken family. With a beautiful visual canopy, and the heart of Zimmer’s score, Charlie and Raymond’s journey is a simple, yet heartfelt one.
A self centered yuppie named Charlie Babbitt receives word that his estranged father has passed away. Charlie returns for the funeral to retrieve what he assumes will be the fortune that his father has left him. He is sorrily mistaken. All he is left is his father’s prized 1949 Buick Roadmaster. In a fury he demands to know what he did with the rest of the money. What he discovers is it was left in a trust for his autistic-savant brother, one he never knew he had. Charlie takes off to the home his brother has been cared for in and tries to bargain with Raymond’s guardian. When the guardian is not swayed, Charlie takes Raymond for a ride, and doesn’t return. It doesn’t take Charlie long to see his brother’s unique gift to be able to do unimaginable math quicker than a calculator. Or the fact that he can memorize ridiculous amounts of trivia. It also becomes apparent that Raymond’s autism is much more severe than Charlie had assumed. The schedule that can’t be broken, the inability to be touched, to the food he eats. Everything is a programed routine, that Charlie does not understand because he can’t emotionally connect. In light of Raymond’s idiosyncratic behaviors, Charlie decides to utilize his gift by taking him to Vegas to turn his luck around. At some point Charlie realizes he’s only been accommodating Raymond to help himself, not Raymond, and the fact that he’s been using his brother, the only family he has.
Tom Cruise wrote the book at playing a self involved, arrogant, scoundrel, that cares for no one but himself. But he gave Charlie something more than many of the roles he played before. His abandonment issues and accepting his fathers death with no closure wears on him throughout and Cruise delivers the breakdown of his hard exterior. In contrast, Dustin Hoffman plays this mathematical robot, unable to emotionally connect with anyone and gives him something tangible and sweet to attach to. The genius of the film was the director Barry Levinson’s and actors ability to display in small doses the connection that Raymond and Charlie do eventually find for one another. Two brother’s completely cut off from each other and the rest of the world, somehow find comfort in each other, to the best of each of their abilities.
In it’s essence Rain Man is a film about relationships, a character piece showing the evolution of two brothers each struggling with their own hangups, and somehow finding peace within each other. The roller coaster of emotions the film takes you on is well worth the ride in that beautiful Roadmaster. For a tender and thoughtful story, this ranks right up there.