While Charlie Babbitt’s under stress
To sell off cars to pay off debts,
His distant father dies and, yes,
His selfish son has few regrets.
He’s hurt and shocked and quite irate
When he gets little from the will.
He learns that most of Dad’s estate
Has gone to someone else, $3 mil.
This newly wealthy, unnamed other
Turns out to be Raymond Babbitt,
Charlie’s undiscovered brother,
Whom he never knew, dagnabbit!
This Raymond clearly is autistic,
A savant with great recall,
Emotion-lacking and simplistic,
Who depends on routines small.
Since Charlie plans to get his share,
He takes Ray from the institution.
Charlie doesn’t seem to care
About his bro, just restitution.
Due to Raymond’s fearful quirks,
They cannot fly back to L.A.
Instead, they drive, and Raymond irks
His brother Charlie all the way.
Ray’s repetition and strange habits
Drive his brother near-insane,
But as they go, the broken Babbitts
Share in memories and pain.
Though Charlie’s business nears its doom,
A visit to Las Vegas thrills
And grants them money and a room,
All thanks to Raymond’s counting skills.
When they at last get to L.A.,
It seems that Charlie’s changed his tune.
He wants his brother now to stay,
Regardless if it’s opportune.
He sees Ray as a brother dear,
Because of what he since has learned,
Yet, to the doctors, it seems clear
That Raymond ought to be returned.
Still, Charlie bids goodbye to “Rain Man,”
No more just a crazy loon.
As Raymond leaves his newfound “main man,”
Charlie says he’ll visit soon.

Rain Man is what I call a Triple A movie because it is All About the Acting. The entire movie revolves around Dustin Hoffman’s amazing portrayal of autistic savant Raymond Babbitt. It’s one of those roles of a lifetime that actors probably take just to prove how skilled they are. Every movement, every line, every step of his walk, every blank stare contributes to our believing that we’re watching a real person and not just someone putting on a show. That is acting, and Hoffman certainly deserved his second Best Actor Oscar win. Considering that he’s also played a woman, a 121-year-old man, and Captain Hook, it’s also a testament to his versatility.

Almost as impressive is Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt. His performance is not as nuanced as Hoffman’s, but he’s still quite convincing, both as a selfish jerk for most of the movie and a more compassionate brother by the end. Charlie is a main reason the film is as low as it is on my list; even if we sympathize with his wanting a share of his father’s estate, his egocentric behavior, frequent obscenities, and all-around unkindness toward his brother get old, even if the mental torment Charlie endures from Raymond’s quirks is often funny. Where Cruise really comes into his own is the Las Vegas scene, which not only has the best music of the film but also sees more touching moments between the brothers, such as Charlie finally appreciating Ray and teaching him to dance. Scenes like that make Charlie’s turnaround believable, even if the doctors remained incredulous.

Though the final scene was burdened by the 1988 writer’s strike, I found the ending mostly satisfying. Though I believe Charlie had changed and did have Raymond’s best interests at heart, he proved that he can be impulsive and probably didn’t realize what a responsibility life-long custody of his brother would have been. Raymond ended up in the right place for his needs, but at least the road trip helped Charlie to truly care for his brother, even if he got no special compensation (though Raymond did save his business).

The film also won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director (Barry Levinson), and I’d say that Hans Zimmer’s iconic, oddly African-sounding score also deserved to win. Despite quite a bit of unfortunate language, Rain Man is a powerful movie, thanks to a winning script and the chemistry of two fine actors, just the kind of film that’s best seen cut.

Best line: (Raymond, his best repeated line) “97-X. Baaam! The future of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 10
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 9
Watchability: 8
Other (great script, music, and chemistry): +5
Other (language): -3
TOTAL: 46 out of 60

Next: #161 – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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