Friday, January 2, 2015

Rain Man (Best Picture 1988)

Although Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor for his role as Raymond "Rain Man" Babbitt, this film is actually all about the journey of the younger brother, Charlie.

Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt at the beginning of the film is a high-strung, angry, crass young foreign car salesman. When his girl-friend, Susanna, wants to talk to him, he shuts her out. Even when told that his father in Ohio has died, he doesn't let any emotion show. They go to the funeral in silence, and he makes her sit in the rental car. He finally explains to her why he hates his father so much: when he was sixteen he took his father's 1949 Buick for a joy-ride. His father sent the police after him, and his father made him spend two nights in jail. He left home immediately after that, never trying to get back in touch with his father. That evening he sees his father's lawyer and learns that he has been left the car that helped destroy their relationship, and the roses around the house. Everything else has been left to an unnamed beneficiary.

Charlie is not happy with this, and upon investigation finds that "his" money has been left to Wallbrook, an institution outside the city. Dr. Bruner there will not explain why they were left the money, but when he confronts an autistic savant named Raymond sitting in his Buick, Charlie learns that he has an older brother he never knew about. Now Charlie is furious that not only does he not have the money, but he has a brother no one ever told him about. In a fit of pique, he "escorts" Raymond from the institution, planning on holding him "hostage" until he can get some of his money. He calls his lawyer and finds that no one ever filed for custody of Raymond, so he begins the process in order to take possession of the inheritance. When Dr. Bruner refuses to "negotiate," Charlie plans to take Raymond back to Los Angeles.
After Raymond walks in on Susanna and Charlie having sex and Charlie yells at Raymond, Susanna walks out. Charlie still thinks he can "win," but Raymond refuses to fly. At the airport Charlie is able to cite all of the airline crashes that have occurred to all of the domestic airlines, so has a panic attack. Charlie has no choice but to drive them back to LA in their father's Buick.
The rest of the film is the road trip from Ohio to California. And after so much set-up, we get a helluva pay-off. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman are together in the majority of the rest of the film, and you literally can not take your eyes off them. Hoffman as the idiot savant is more mesmerizing, but watch how Cruise's reactions go from anger and frustration to acceptance and then love. Here are two men who go from not wanting to communicate to wanting to but not knowing how to, to having some sort of odd, brotherly bond. It really is a beautiful journey.
The best scene in a film full of great scenes is in a motel bathroom. Charlie realizes from something Ray says that *he* was "Rain Man," Charlie's "imaginary" friend when he was a very young boy. In 1965 Ray burned "the baby" (young Charlie) with very hot tub water, and so their father institutionalized Ray rather than risk something serious happening to Charlie. Adult Charlie suddenly realizes that his father *and* Ray had loved him. His heart begins to soften.

Later, Susanna shows up again in Las Vegas as Charlie is trying to use Raymond to count cards. They win enough money for Charlie to pay off his car business. Meanwhile, Ray meets a hooker and asks for a date. Charlie teaches his brother how to slow dance. They share "a moment," but when Charlie tries to give his brother a hug, Ray has another fit. It's terribly sad for Charlie to not be able to "bond" with his brother in the way that he wants to. Later, after the hooker doesn't show up, Susanna dances with Ray and even kisses him.
At the end, Charlie has good intentions to live with his brother in LA. However, after a wel-filmed sequence where Ray causes the fire alarm to go off, Charlie realizes that he can't give Ray the attention he deserves. At the pre-custody appraisal, he volunteers to give Raymond back to Wallbrook. In the most touching scene of the film, Charlie thanks Ray for being his big brother. Then Ray gently leans his forehead in to touch Charlie's. Overcome with joy, Charlie gently kisses his brother on the forehead, sure that his brother shares their love.
Dustin Hoffman definitely deserved his Best Actor Academy Award because his performance is absolutely unforgettable. Some of his lines have turned into Simpsons or Family Guy jokes, but to watch him from beginning to end....he is absolutely incredible. And Tom Cruise should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Charlie. He acts like typical Tom Cruise hot-head for the first half of the film, so his scenes in the last half hour of the film are even more fantastic compared to them. Barry Levinson won Best Director, as well. Often he tried to show what the world might look like to Raymond, as scenes fly by too fast or when the camera stays focused on something trivial to the scene. It is very interesting to watch. And of course the screen-writers won Best Screenplay, for a story that I have read was partly improvised as it was being filmed.

If you have never seen this film, see it.

Rain Man
*Academy Award Best Picture of 1988*
Produced by Mark Johnson
Directed  by Barry Levinson
Screenplay by Ronald Bass & Barry Morrow
Story by Barry Morrow 

This is a great trailer!
You can really get a feel for the film from it.

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
The Accidental Tourist
Dangerous Liaisons
Mississippi Burning
Working Girl
This is a year where the nominees were all very different types of films. The Accidental Tourist is a sort of dry comedy staring John Hurt as a travel writer who hates to travel. Geena Davis plays his girl-friend, and won Best Supporting Actress for her role. Dangerous Liaisons stars Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and John Malkovich as French nobles playing with love, sex, and politics. Close was nominated for Best Actress but did not win. Mississippi Burning is a fictionalized account of the murders of the three Civil Rights volunteers in 1964. Gene Hackman was nominated for Best Actor for his role as an FBI agent. And Working Girl is the "cinderella" story of Melanie Griffith trying to escape from her upbringing to make it in the rough NYC business world. She was nominated for Best Actress for her role, too. Oddly enough, her co-star Sigourney Weaver was simultaneously nominated for Best Supporting Actress as her bitchy boss in Working Girl at the same time she was nominated for Best Actress for Gorillas In The Midst. However, all of these fine actresses lost to Jodie Foster in The Accused, which is the story of a rape victim who goes after the men who cheered on her rapists.

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