A fast talking salesman discovers for the first time that hehas an autistic brother. Together, he and his brother setoff, in a classic Buick Roadmaster convertible, on apersonal journey across America to discover themselves andeach other.
Dustin Hoffman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1988for his portrayal as the autistic savant Raymond in Barry Levinson’s Rain Man. The magnitude of Hoffman’s performance, however, only served to cast a shadow over Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Charlie Babbit, the fast talking car salesman who eventually grows a conscience and eventually a heart. Set in the Reagan 80s at a time when people seemed to have had a little extra money in their pockets, Rain Man went to show that next to family, everything else is trivial.
Relationships between father and son can often become strained. In Charlie Babbit’s case, it didn’t just become strained but rather it ended at the age of sixteen. When he receives word, many years later, that his father has died, he attends the funeral in the hopes of collecting his ‘fair share’ of his father’s wealth. Instead of newfound fortune, Charlie realizes that all his father has left him is a used car and rose bushes and that an unnamed beneficiary has inherited his father’s $3 million.
Tom Cruise had a string of hits prior to Rain Man with filmslike Taps, Risky Business, and Top Gun, which proved to be the big hit of ‘86. However, the box-office punch of his films often cast a shadow on Cruise’s acting abilities and most of the time, he suffered the scrutiny of being just a pretty face with a killer smile. Here in Rain Man, he proves his harshest critics the opposite and shows the depth of his acting ability. Cruise really comes into his own in this film and there is the sense of a real character arch as he starts off with a seemingly impenetrable cold heart yet towards the end, comes to understand and embrace the only family he has left.
The film has a serious tone, but it is laced with humorous bits throughout, mostly as Charlie reacts to Raymond’s escapades. Hoffman’s performance may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of a person suffering from autism, but the film is never heavy-handed towards its look at it. The humor in the film allows the viewer not to laugh at, but rather with the situations presented. John Seale does a wonderful job with cinematography inkeeping with the tradition of the ‘road movie’ where sceneryserves to dominate and represent the loneliness ofcharacters seeking redemption or El Dorado.
Rain Man is not a film to be overlooked. It’s a strong filmwith a message stressing the importance of family and withtwo great performances to boot, it’s certainly one to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon with a loved one.