349. Rain Man

Movie: Rain Man

Release Date: December 16, 1988

Director: Barry Levinson

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino.

Tag Lines: “A journey through understanding and fellowship.”

Relevance: I first saw ‘Rain Man’ in the theater either late 1988 or early 1989. I was 17 years old and a senior in high school. Believe it or not, I hated the movie. The way Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond “Ray” Babbitt, was treated in the movie drove me insane. Yes, some of the scenarios were supposed to be humorous, but every time the audience would laugh at him, I would get angry. I couldn’t get over the fact that they were laughing at someone who lived in a mental institution and had savant syndrome and autism. At the same time, his character annoyed the hell out of me and I couldn’t wait for the movie to be over. I left thinking I would never see it again.

It was then nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four, including Best Picture and I knew I was probably wrong, another viewing was in my future. I ended up renting the movie from Blockbuster and watching it with my family. I liked it a little better this time around (there was no audience laughing at him), but it still was a difficult film for me to watch. Charlie Babbitt, played by Tom Cruise is such a callous, egotistical human being and his treatment towards his brother for more than half of the movie is appalling. I was young and naive. My life experiences at that point were very sheltered and seeing real-life, tough and hardened individuals just wasn’t my thing.

Throughout the years, I have grown very fond of the movie. After studying acting in college and graduate school, I watched it again just to study the performances. They are both quite brilliant in the movie. And although the character of Raymond does still irritate me at times, I am in awe of how committed Dustin Hoffman was to playing him and I applaud his winning the Best Actor Oscar for the role. Plus, I’m older, have had more life experiences under my belt and my tastes in movie have shifted a bit. The lesson I learned from this Barry Levinson film is sometimes you have to view art at the right time and place for it to be appreciated.

Today’s Thoughts: Although I have seen this movie many times throughout my life, it is still not a movie I watch to be entertained. I had to mentally prepare myself for the viewing today.

The movie is still solid. It is a bit dated and some language is a bit cringe-worthy at times , but it was filmed in 1988 and the truth of that time can’t be erased. The acting by both leads is still quite remarkable. Yes, Dustin Hoffman is superb but Tom Cruise’s portrayal of a very unlikable, cruel character is compelling. It was kind of a brave choice for the actor who was at the beginning of his career to embark on such a role. Despite what people may think about his personal life, he is a very talented actor.

Certain aspects of the screenplay caught my attention this time around. It is a very wordy script. There is quite a lot of dialogue, that is very fast paced and overlapped. It adds to the tension of the situation and the anger of the Tom Cruise character. I also noticed that his character has the same speech patterns and word choices like Raymond. In the first scene, before he even knew he had a brother, he used the word “definitely” repetitively. Foreshadowing? Perhaps. I think it is more of a clever, subtle technique for the audience to know something the characters do not, that they are more alike than they think.

I always say that it takes a very special kind of human being to work with the mentally handicapped. They should be awarded, applauded and praised more than they are. I still get uncomfortable with the Raymond character but it just proves how good Dustin Hoffman was at the role. Despite my initial feelings about ‘Rain Man,’ I do recommend the movie. Definitely. Definitely.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Dustin Hoffman (winner), Academy Award for Best Director, Barry Levinson (winner), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow (winner), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, John Seale (nomination), Academy Award for Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Ida Random, Linda DeScenna (nomination), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Stu Linder (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, Hans Zimmer (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Dustin Hoffman (winner), Golden Globe for Best Director, Barry Levinson (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Stu Linder (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay – Original, Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Motion Picture, Barry Levinson (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award, Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman (nomination), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, Ronald Bass, Barry Morrow (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Tubi, Vudu, Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, DVD Availability.

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