“Charlie Babbitt made a joke,” said Raymond, without expression, to Charlie Babbitt.
Back to the days when Tom Cruise hasn’t been that top-billed “film star”, he was once an actor when portraying Charlie Babbitt, a selfish chap who, upon learning about his estranged father’s death, finds out that he has a long-lost brother. Thing is, his way older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) is an autistic savant, who inherits most of their father’s wealth. There’s pure quality in young Cruise to encounter Hoffman, the powerhouse who went and brought home Best Actor prize in Oscars completing the film’s triumph (with Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture victory).
Rain Man follows one of the most narrative about character development with myriads of jolts and sensitivity. A story about a man reconciles and, later, reconnects with his only family member is never an innovation; but, what if the whole story isn’t about the changing man, but the unchanged man instead? That’s where Rain Man makes differences. As much as it tells stories about Charlie’s effort ‘to reconnect’, it was never a story about him; it’s the story of Raymond.
Barry Morrow’s script sensitively nurtures audiences to immediately hook up to the concept of Raymond. We are led to sympathize to his weary condition as an autistic man whom we thought would never make it in the ‘real world.’ We are also led to despise Charlie for ‘kidnapping’ his brother in the outside world, where Raymond lost his ‘safe routine.’
Yet, on a different light, Raymond would wow us with his unpredictable prowess that almost makes him like a human-computer. On another light, we would also love how Charlie connects with Raymond, unraveling secrets from his past and making jokes with maple syrups. Raymond is a fabulous character, but, we would’ve never known his story without Charlie’s involvement.
Hoffman brings Raymond character into the solid ground in one excellent performance. Yet, it’s Cruise who actually brings life to both characters, despite his character’s being pale in comparison to Hoffman’s.
In a been-there-done-that story, which might insensitively fell into melodrama at any given situation, Rain Man gives nothing particularly new, but a juggernaut of a performance by both leads. And, for me, the last 20 minutes were terrific, utterly terrific.
Rain Man (1988)