Barry Levinson is one of the great screen directors of our time. He's
most notable for being able to evoke subtly comedic discussions amongst
his leading characters, save the rare occasion when his strained
efforts backfire ("Toys" comes to mind). "Rain Man" (1988) is his
crowning effort, his best achievement I can think of off-hand. It's
considered a drama but it's also a true odd couple comedy, about two
opposites who learn they have one common bond: their kinship.
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.
Action / Adventure / Drama
Action / Adventure / Drama
Charles Sanford "Charlie" Babbit is a self-centered Los Angeles-based automobile dealer/hustler/bookie who is at war with his own life. Charlie, as a young teenager, used his father's 1948 Buick convertible without permission and as a result, he went to jail for two days on account that his father reported it stolen. It is then that Charlie learns that his estranged father died and left him from his last will and testament a huge bed of roses and the car while the remainder will of $3 Million goes into a trust fund to be distributed to someone. Charlie seemed pretty angry by this and decides to look into this matter. It seems as if that "someone" is Raymond, Charlie's unknown brother, an autistic savant who lives in a world of his own, resides at the Walbrook Institute. Charlie then kidnaps Raymond and decides to take him on a lust for life trip to the west coast as a threat to get the $3 Million inheritance. Raymond's acts and nagging, including repeated talks of "Abbott & Costello",...
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