Rain Man (1988)

Barry LevRain_Man_posterinson 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.”

3.5/5 Stars

Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

4eba0-good_morning2c_vietnamGoooooooood Mooooooorning Viiieeetnammm! I’m a little late to the party I know, but I wanted to take a look at a film that in many ways personifies Robin Williams. In the last months, I have gotten to read a lot on William’s as a comic and as an actor. When I watch this film which showcases his many skills, I am especially drawn to what I call his bipolar comedy. Let me explain. On the surface, he seems like a pleasant-faced average Joe with a little twinkle in his eye. Maybe there are even moments of emotion or sadness that make their way out. Then, bing pow! The lights go on, the sirens sound, and all chaos breaks loose.

Adrian Cronauer is the perfect embodiment of William’s quick wit and off the wall antics. He has a constant supply of new voices and old reliable ones, not to mention cultural and political jokes. It all gets thrown in so fast you hardly get to bat an eye, and he does it all with that rye smile and one defiant attitude.

This is yet another nostalgic 1980s classic directed by Barry Levinson. The story begins in 1965 with the jockey getting shipped in from Crete, and soon he is the hero of all the underlings especially his young compatriot Private Garlick (Forrest Whitaker). Immediately the power dynamic is rather odd. The General overseeing everything loves his zany, sometimes crass, take on comedy. His two immediate superiors are less than pleased with his early showings of insubordination. If the General is any indication, Cronauer’s mix of humor, (censored) news updates and groovy rock n’ roll prove insanely popular.

In his spare time, Cronauer pursues a young Vietnamese girl while teaching an English class to locals. They soon enjoy his more slang-based approach to English, and he befriends a boy named Tuan. He also has some time to start a brawl at a local hangout and eventually see it blown to smithereens. It’s after this one occasion where he gets fed up with the censors controlling what he says because it doesn’t seem right. It seems too regular army, and he is certainly not that. Cronauer is suspended but during his hiatus, he gains a new found zeal performing for the boys in the field.

Due to popular demand, he gets reinstate,d but his superior, who has always had it in for him, connects him with a wanted South Vietnamese terrorist, and Cronauer soon gets the boot with an honorable discharge. The former disc jockey realizes Tuan lied to him all along, but after confronting the boy he fulfills one last commitment with his English class. Cronauer flies off into the wild blue yonder, but not without leaving a gift with Garlick for all the boys. Gooooodbyeeee Vietnaaaam!

This was a grade A performance by Robin Williams and the soundtrack was absolutely superb, full of big and small hits alike. Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” was especially impactful due to the images that were juxtaposed with it. Furthermore, just as much of what Cronauer was lost to his students, I feel like many of his cultural quips might get lost to newer generations. I sincerely hope they do not and his political commentary will always swirl around like any of the controversy surrounding Vietnam. The magic of the character is his ability to make men laugh despite their circumstances. The magic of Robin Williams is that he was a man who made us laugh in all circumstances.

4/5 Stars