Barry Levinson doesn’t have a masterpiece per se, but he has some thoroughly enjoyable films in his filmography including Diner and Good Morning Vietnam as two prime examples. Rain Man is similar in that it is an interesting film and a heartfelt film, but not, dare I say, a great film.
Tom Cruise plays his typical stuck-up jerk named Charlie Babbit who learns what really matters in life, over time. He starts off as hotshot car dealer in Los Angeles who is trying to swing a big deal while balancing a vacay in Palm Desert with his girlfriend. However, when he gets news that his estranged father has passed away, he must change course for Ohio.
It’s there that he rehashes his old bitterness towards his father, and it is there that he learns something life-changing. He has a brother. An older brother to be exact, named Raymond. Except he never heard about him, since Ray is living in Wallbrook, a mental institution for individuals with autism.
He lives on a regimented schedule that he adheres to without fail. He loves books, baseball, and Jeopardy! among other hobbies. Whenever he gets nervous he starts into a monotone monologue of “Who’s on First.” He seems completely at odds with the world of his younger brother, but the catch is that all their father’s wealth is essentially given over to Raymond.
So in the name of equality, Charlie takes his brother away and holds him at a kind of ransom so Ray’s doctor will hand over half of the family fortune. The doctor doesn’t budge, however, so Charlie is left to travel with his brother to California. Matters are complicated because Ray will not fly on planes, citing the many fatalities in the past. Thus, this story of two brothers turns into a road film where Charlie begins to learn how special Ray really is.
True, he constantly sticks to his regiment (ie. Lights out at 11 and such), but he also has amazing abilities including doing extraordinary calculations and having tremendous recall ability. At first Charlie’s girlfriend, Sussana is upset with how he treats Raymond and she leaves. That was unfortunate because she for a time was my favorite character. However, it does allow for Cruise and Hoffman to share more scenes together. They take Vegas by storm and Raymond is a success while Susanna finally rejoins them. Most importantly Charlie has a newfound respect for his brother and what he is able to do. Dr. Bruner wants to take Ray back to the institution, and despite his objections, Charlie can do little about it. He will have to find solace in the fact that he will be visiting his brother next Wednesday.
In Rain Man I found Tom Cruise to generally be a jerk because that was the part he was playing and he was made for that type of role. Dustin Hoffman, on his part, gave an extraordinary performance which managed to be emotionless and robotic at times. However, he seemed to capture the humanity and reality of an individual with autism so well. Just because they act differently than what we are used to does not mean they are not just as human and relatable. They have feelings and emotions too that matter. That being said, it is understandable why he would be hard to deal with sometimes. Valeria Golino was a fairly good addition because she brought some more energy and seemed to generally care about Raymond. Although Charlie did eventually come around, thanks to a few revelations about his “Rain Man.”