Rain Man (1988) (R)

You’ve probably heard the name before and rightfully so, “Rain Man” remains in cinema’s canon remarkably well for a movie that was thought to bomb with critics and at the box office.
The opposite was true. “Rain Man” sustains a significant pop culture impact even if looking at it today, we can realize that it is long since outdated with better versions of the same story.
It’s actually not that sophisticated of a plot. Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a selfish car dealer...or something. We’re not really sure what his job is, but it certainly involves a lot of talking loudly onto the phone in a “Glengarry Glenn Ross” fashion. He seems like an uptight prick and it only takes us a few moment to see him interact with his girlfriend, Susanna (Valeria Golino) that we realize he really is an uptight prick.
Right off the bat, the “action” begins. Charlie’s overriding, never-shows-me-love, father dies and leaves him a car and some roses in the will. The rest of the inheritance, 3 million dollars worth of it, goes to an unnamed beneficiary. Not being outdone by his old man, Charlie decides that he is going to find out who this person is...but the consequences may be too much for him.
The film then introduced Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), a functioning autistic man who turns out to be Charlie’s secret brother. Surprise!
Then Charlie shows his true colors by deciding to essentially kidnap Raymond (for what purpose, we’re really not sure, but it doesn’t really matter either) and hold him for “ransom” from a man who could not help Charlie even if he wanted to. Okay, so then with an upcoming deal slowly falling apart, Charlie has to get back across the country in a short amount of time with Raymond in tow, trying to keep all his spinning plates upright.
It’s a road trip movie in its most simple form, and one that probably couldn’t survive today. The film is both too simple and too long. Barry Levinson includes needless edits and needless scenes that do little to showcase either Charlie or Raymond’s development. It’s important to note that the film’s most successful and praised scene—in which Raymond counts cards in Las Vegas—comes as somewhat of an afterthought. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the plot very well, then again, it does feel written as shooting occurred.
Interestingly enough, the film’s success lies with Tom Cruise, whose performance can sometimes feel a little bit Nicolas Cage-y. It’s because of Charlie that the film has its emotional center and then when the final frames come and go it’s hard not be left unmoved...because of Cruise.
“Rain Man” would go on to win several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and I think that it deserved it. For being at its written center, so clumsy, the actors are able to do a lot and the direction is always solid. The movie itself might come today as a bit insensitive or too politically incorrect; but who cares about that? Watch “Rain Man” at least once in your life if only to get the references every makes.

I’m an excellent driver.

Score: ★★★

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