Rain Man is a film I’ve had on DVD for about five or six years, yet despite my long ownership of the picture I never watched it. It’s not that I’ve tried avoiding seeing it, it’s just that I never had a great urge to see the movie. Maybe it’s due to the fact I’ve never really gotten into feel-good dramedy films, which I typically find manipulative and gooey. But on Wednesday, I finally opened up the dusty DVD cover of Rain Man and placed the disc into my blu-ray player. While I enjoyed Rain Man more than I thought I would, it’s probably a bit overrated and not incredibly deserving of a Best Picture Oscar (in my opinion, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ was, but that wasn’t even nominated). Still, it’s hard not to be entertained by Barry Levinson’s tale of two brothers.
Rain Man starts out with Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) at his car salesman job. Charlie is an arrogant, egotistic man who often puts greedy ambitions over moral decisions. When he discovers his father had just died, he reluctantly attends his funeral, urged by his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino), he learns that he had a long-lost brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who was sent as a child to a special disabilities institute since he was autistic. After learning that his father gave his three million dollar estate to Raymond, Charlie takes his brother to the Los Angeles in hopes of getting half the money. The only problem is that due to Raymond’s fear of flying, the two will have to drive all the way from Cincinnati to L. A., leading the brothers to gain the relationship they never had.
If anything, Rain Man is a road-trip movie with the two central characters bonding together. Levinson plays with Raymond’s idiosyncratic behavior for laughs: he’s often meticulous with numbers and details, obsessed with sticking to a certain schedule, and talks in a peculiar manner, all of which tend to infuriate Charlie. Despite this, Levinson wisely keeps the movie PC about its subject matter of autism, never intending to clearly offend anyone.
But as the film moves on, the film more strongly focuses on Charlie’s and Raymond’s relationship with their father. Like most road-trip movies, it’s about two mismatched characters who find similarities between each other.
While nothing new, I found the intimate scenes between Charlie and Raymond the strongest. Still, it’s hard to deny that Rain Man is a piece of generic and conventional filmmaking. The plot is rather predictable and the movie’s main twists could be spotted within a mile, plus Levinson often resorts to manipulating his audience for tearjerking moments. But the film makes up for this weakness through Hoffman’s performance. Hoffman is undeniably committed to his role, which he won an Oscar for. While Cruise plays a very type cast part, he’s strong as his character as well.
Despite its faults, I rather liked and appreciated Rain Man. It isn’t a great piece of cinema, but it is effective and entertaining.