Rain Man (1988) Director: Barry Levinson
“Of course when they bring the pancakes after the maple syrup it’ll be too late…”
Rain Man is a bittersweet comedy/drama that occurs mainly on the open road. It is about the troubled relationship between two brothers, Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) a high-functioning autistic savant who lives at the Wallbrook Mental Institution and whose life is timed by a rigid series of schedules in order to maintain psychological stability; and a slick Los Angeles hotshot named Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) who is only interested in money. When Charlie Babbitt’s father dies he learns he has merely inherited a classic car and little else, and instead the bulk of his father’s fortune totaling $3M has been placed in a trust held by the Wallbrook Institution. Charlie travels across the country to the Wallbrook Institution where he discovers his previously unknown brother, Raymond.
When Charlie was young he had an imaginary friend, a “rain man” who would sing to him. As the film progress we learn that the idea of the “rain man” was actually Raymond attempting to say “Ray-Mond” as a kid. The two brothers grow closer together as Charlie essentially kidnaps Raymond and takes him across the country in a series of chaotic foibles, including a card-counting ploy in Las Vegas. The journey begins with Charlie hoping to gain money out of the situation, but by the end he grows to love his brother and refuses to take any money. However, Raymond’s life is too complicated and he requires round the clock care. At the conclusion Raymond is sent back to Wallbrook with Charlie promising to visit him soon.
While watching Rain Man I got a little sick of Tom Cruise’s character incessantly yelling at his autistic brother, and the plot is more or less predictable, but Dustin Hoffman delivers an incredible performance in what was no doubt a challenging role. For his performance he won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor. One of the delightful aspects of his performance is that we (the audience) feel both frustration as well as empathy for Raymond, rather than fear or pity. Outside Hoffman’s performance, Rain Man is a mostly bland, middle-of-the-road Best Picture winner.