And the Oscar Goes to:
Rain Man, 1988
Directed by: Barry Levinson
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Rain Man is an American road-comedy about the aftermath of Charles Babbitt (Tom Cruise, American Made) and Raymond Babbitt’s (Dustin Hoffman, Kramer vs. Kramer) father’s death. Charles was not on speaking terms with his father, and, as a result, received next to nothing in the will, while the house (worth an estimated $3m) was left to Raymond. Charles eventually learns this (and learns that Raymond is in fact his brother, which had been kept a secret), and kidnaps Raymond. Raymond, it must be noted, has autism, and quite a severe kind, and it was a care home which Charles kidnapped Raymond from. Charles then uses Raymond in an effort to get what is ‘rightfully his’ from the will ($1.5m).
Those who know me know Tom Cruise is probably my least favourite actor (to me he’s just a glorified stunt-man who can’t act), but even I cannot criticise his performance in this film. He plays the perfect opposite to Raymond’s character, and his reactions and his initial lack of understanding to Raymond’s condition is spot on. Hoffman, though, steals the show with a fantastic performance, fully deserving of his Oscar win (Best Actor). Hoffman gives a truly believable performance as an autistic savant, and he was helped by a magnificent script. Brilliantly allowing Charles’ frustrations to come out slowly with Raymond’s lack of cooperation (constant ‘I don’t know’ and ‘yeah’ answers despite not understanding the question) allow both characters to be revealed while allowing them to brilliantly play off one another.
Charles soon discovers that Raymond has brilliant skills (an exceptional memory and calculator-level mathematical skills), yet he suffers from a lack of real-world knowledge (multiplying numbers in their thousands with ease but quoting both a car and a item of food at $100). Charles, who is also suffering financially with his business, uses this to take advantage in Las Vegas, where Raymond’s memory allows him to perfectly count the remaining cards and they win a lot of money. This trip to Vegas is the main turning point for their friendship (despite the obvious fact that Charles is simply using his brother, who he is still holding ransom, for financial gain). They bond a lot in Vegas and by this point in the journey Charles is more understanding to Raymond’s condition. It’s a slow build but it comes across as natural and authentic and it’s rewarding when Charles finally enjoys his brother’s company, after being frustrated for most of their time together. It’s a lovely uplifting story (if you ignore the fact that Charles, throughout, is not a very nice person).
There really isn’t a lot wrong with this film: for a comedy I suppose it could have been funnier at parts (in a way that we’re not laughing at Raymond or Charles’ reactions to Raymond’s behaviour), and more history of the two (the title blends in with a few moments of their own past but a few more really would have added so much more depth to the characters). But, overall, it is a near-perfect film.
Plot: * * *
Acting: * * * * *
Writing: * * * * *
Presentation: * * * *
Overall Rating: * * * * ¼