It has been a rather busy week for me and unfortunately this has result in the neglect of my blog. However, now that the weekend is near, I am back in business and will be continuing with my Top 250 challenge. On that note, let us move on to number 248 on the list: Rain Man.
In Rain Man, Tom Cruise plays Charlie Babbit, a self-obsessed car dealer who would do anything to make a quick buck. When Charlie’s father dies, Charlie is outraged to find out that an unnamed beneficiary is to inherit his father’s $3m fortune. When Charlie finds out that the unnamed beneficiary is an autistic older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who never knew, he sets out to obtain guardianship of Raymond in order to obtain the cash.
The performances in the film are fantastic, with Hoffman in particular standing out, and fully deserving of his Oscar, for his portrayal of the autistic Raymond. Hoffman plays the character with subtlety when it would have been very easy to overstate the impact of autism on the character of Raymond and this results in a completely believable performance which engrossed me from start to finish.
Tom Cruise is also in good form as Raymond’s brother Charlie, albeit the character arc he is given is a very familiar story of redemption – changing from a selfish egotist into a loving brother during the course of the film. Whilst he is overshadowed by Hoffman, Cruise still manages to hold his own and plays the self-centred Charlie superbly.
Aside from the performances, Rain Man is a pretty bog standard road movie which lacks any real originality. In one sequence, we find Charlie exploiting Raymond’s numerical abilities to count cards in a Las Vegas casino, thereby winning a small fortune. This riffs off the common perception that people with autism have savant skills when perhaps a more original take on the issues of autism would have been more rewarding (albeit it is probable that Rain Man helped to create that perception in the first place).
Having said that, Rain Man does have some genuinely funny moments and some moments of real emotion – the scene in which Raymond imitates sex noises made by Charlie and his girlfriend (Valeria Golino) is particularly amusing. However, despite the odd moment of humour and emotion, I cannot say that I loved this film and it is certainly not one which would make it into my Top 250 films of all time.
Overall, the performances of Cruise and Hoffman lift Rain Man above mediocrity, but there are many other elements of a good film (such a strong storyline) which are missing. Dustin Hoffman’s performance is definitely up there with the best and is a career defining role, but apart from that there really is not much else in this film to suggest that it should be considered a classic.