Click here to read my autism lesson on this movie.
Charlie Babbitt cares about nothing in the world besides money and cars. He has never seemed capable of showing any sort of love towards anybody, having grown up with a neglectful father and a deceased mother. Since he got scared so frequently throughout his childhood, he often imagined a figure named the “Rain Man” to sing to him. Now as an adult, he uses everybody for his own financial gain: his clients, his girlfriend, and even his own distant family when he gets the chance. Thus, when his father passes away, leaving him nothing in his will but a 1983 Ferrari 400 I, Charlie picks up some information that he probably should have figured out by now: off in a mental hospital in Cincinnati, he has an autistic brother named Raymond who inherited 3 million dollars from the will. But Raymond will never use that 3 million dollars, because he has no concept of money. Now Charlie has got to bring his brother back with him to Los Angeles to inherit his share of the fortune, all while learning what it means to be a loving brother.
Action star Tom Cruise takes the driver’s seat as the stuck up car salesman, his performance as urgent and unsympathetic as you would visualize a man with his background. Dustin Hoffman sits in the passenger seat as one of the few cinematic portrayals of an autistic savant, which he plays with convincing realism. While it is a little difficult to care about the events before Raymond’s entrance, after his introduction, the arc of the journey officially unfolds.
Charlie and Raymond’s travels across the country in the Ferrari takes up a great majority of the feature, since Raymond refuses to fly in a plane. It all progresses with sunset views of empty streets in the middle of nowhere, adding a more intimate yet grand take on the homely road movie. At first, Charlie has zero patience and zero tolerance with Raymond’s absence of eye-contact or common judgment. But over the six long days spent landmark by landmark, his inner journey progresses from irritation to compassion.
It’s even well planned which types of events most tick Charlie off. Raymond never stops brainless muttering in a conversation, and whenever asked a question, he either responds with “I don’t know,” or waits to answer it for a half hour. Then there are the things he does that really get into Charlie’s hair: he grabs the steering wheel of the car while Charlie’s driving, and will only put on underwear sold at the K-Mart in Cincinnati.
These moments of agitation resonate so well by the ways Tom Cruise allows his character to take it, or more importantly, how his reactions change over the two-and-half hour runtime. He goes from flipping out over Raymond’s pickiness of where to buy underwear to defending his brother when others try to humiliate him. He goes through the ultimate test any common 80’s man would need to treat his family with unconditional mercy.
I would consider this movie dated, because today, shutting mentally disabled people into institutions no longer stands as a proper form of management. The movie shows more of how the two leads grow and develop: Charlie becomes a whole new person, Raymond doesn’t change at all, nor will he ever change.
But it’s not just Raymond’s story to tell. For any of us who are like Charlie and have that one impossible relative, keep this in mind: a family’s journey together spans across numerous obstacles big and small. Priority should not go to personal comfort or satisfaction, but compassion- knowing what’s best for everyone. That I believe will solve half of our world’s problems.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Castro, Carlos Fernández. Rain Man (1988). Digital image. Bandejadeplata. 8 June 2015. Web. <http://www.bandejadeplata.com/articulos-de-cine/tom-cruise-la-estrella-que-quiso-actuar/>