DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Rain Man

Friday, 4 March 2011

Rain Man

Rain Man (1988) dir. Barry Levinson
Starring: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino


By Alan Bacchus

Rain Man survives well these many years, and having few legitimate contendors (remember it was the 80’s) it probably deserved the Best Picture Oscar that year. It’s chock full of Hollywood schmaltz, essentially a road movie, two characters with a predictable trajectory touching the soft doughy parts of our emotions but executed so well it’s difficult even for the most hardened art house cine-snob not to feel something from this movie.

Tom Cruise plays the same character we saw in his previous three films Top Gun, Cocktail and Color Money, Charlie Babbitt a cocky self-absorbed egomaniac who operates his own smarmy luxory automobile distribution business. It’s a typical character of the cutthroat capitalist 80’s, a man who chews up and spits out anything that comes in his path toward his entitled fortune.

But when Charlie discovers his estranged father has passed, he looks to have found his fortune instantly through a large inheritance. Unfortunately for Charlie the money has been put in trust of Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), his severely autististic brother he never knew about. Charlie kidnaps Raymond in hopes of ransoming him off for his share of the money. While at first Charlie finds Raymond’s idiosyncracies annoying and frustrating a genuine and bond of brotherhood grows between the two, thus finding the real family Charlie never had before.

Barry Levinson finds himself at the height of his career directing with complete confidence. He was arguably one of the top Hollywood directors of the 80’s, directing one memorable film after another from 1982 to 1991 including Diner, Young Sherlock Holmes, Tin Men, Good Morning Vietnam, Avalon, and Bugsy. His direction in Rain Man is unflashy yet efficient, letting his actors command the screen. Yet, he finds time to choreograph a number of iconic scenes and individual shots which have stayed in the pop culture public consciousness. First, the memorable long shot of Cruise and Hoffman leaving the grounds of Wallbrook, as seen by the Center’s director. There’s also Cruise and Hoffman’s slow descent on the Casino escalator, revealing both characters wearing identical grey suits, ready to beat the house.

While Hoffman won all the accolades, showcasing his talents in transforming himself into a mysterious yet sympathetic idiot savant, Tom Cruise deserves as much credit. On the surface his characterization of Charlie as a soulless bloodsucker comes off as histrionics, but Cruise goes through the largest and most profound transformation of the two characters. The irony that the meek, unassuming socially stunted man breaking down such a streetwise intimitading person makes for great comedy. And this couldn’t happen without Cruise’s reactions and comic timing to Hoffman's Oscar-performance.

Rain Man also survives intact despite an awful sense of fashion which permeated most other movies of it’s day. The movie admirably surmounts Tom Cruise’s pleated pants and polo shirt buttoned up to the top, as well as Valeria Golina’s awful comnbination of tapered jogging pants and converse high-tops.

Most impressive of all is that Rain Man survives Tropic Thunder’s pinpoint accurate scathing of these Oscar-baiting movies where famous actors 'go retard' shamelessly exploiting audiences sympathies.

Rain Man is available on Blu-Ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment


Mark said...

Did you read Crowe's 'Conversations with Wilder'?

He was talking to Wilder about Cary Grant and Wilder mentioned how Grant never got the oscar for best actor. He said you had to walk with a limp or act retarded to get noticed. Said they never notice the guy who worked hard to make it look easy. He also mentions Rain Man - not deriding the film but knowing that Hoffman's performance was so upfront they can't help but notice him acting and give out the award.

The Academy has made many mistakes and I was always bothered that Pacino got the award for Scent of a Woman. No where near his best performance. Godfather II - impeccable. Understated and frothing. Art Carney got his sympathy Oscar that year beating out Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Albert Finney and... Dustin Hoffman. Good fun.

Alan Bacchus said...

I concur 100% Mark. And the 1974 Best Actor results is simply embarassing. Who the fuck has even seen Harry and Tonto lately?