The more Oscar winning films I watch, the more I learn about my movie assumptions. The moral of this blog post is just because a movie is often spoofed doesn’t mean that movie is a joke. In fact, that movie may have been spoofed or made fun of because it is just a great film. The 1988 Oscar Best Picture winner Rain Man has been spoofed or made fun of, a lot. Just off the top of my head I can think of spoofs of Rain Man in Family Guy, the Hangover and Tropic Thunder and I know that there have to be more. It is becoming apparent to me that good films can often get spoofed because Rain Man was an outstanding film.
The film opens with main character Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) working at his car dealership business with friend Lenny (Ralph Seymour) and foreign girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino). Leaving for a weekend away, Charlie’s plans are changed by news that his father has passed away. During the funeral and the reading of the will, we discover that Charlie and his father were not close. In fact they had not spoken in a number of years. Expecting to be left a large sum of his father’s money, Charlie is infuriated when his is simply left his father’s car and prize winning bushes. When he finds out that his father’s money has been left to a man at a mental institution, Charlie does a little investigation. Charlie finds that housed at the institution is a man named Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), a brother that Charlie knows nothing about. Raymond is an idiot savant, a man with autism who can do anything with numbers. Hurt that his brother has been kept from him and insistent that his father’s money should be split between the two of them, Charlie takes Raymond from the institution. He says that he will only return his brother if given a check for 1.5 million dollars, essentially kidnapping him. Charlie tries to cope with travelling with Raymond’s idiosyncrasies, which include but are not limited to not being able to fly, being unable to go out in the rain, having to eat specific foods each night, not being able to drive on the highway and needing his bed up against a window. To make matters worse a business emergency demands that Charlie cross the country or he could lose the business. Though at first he loathes the idea, during the journey Charlie learns what it means to not only be a brother but what it means to have a family.
This film was all about the journey that Charlie and Raymond take together and what they both get out of it. Raymond is given a chance to live, a chance to live outside of the institution and outside of the eyes that think he can do nothing. To start out, Raymond is given more freedom by Charlie because Charlie does not want to properly care for and look out for his brother. As they continue to travel together and Charlie starts to recognize Raymond as his brother and love him as a brother, he gives Raymond more freedom because he thinks Raymond deserves it. He recognizes Raymond as a person, not simply as a person with autism and realizes that Raymond needs to have his own experiences and his own life.
While Raymond is finally allowed to live his own life, Charlie’s life is completely rewritten. At the start of his journey with his brother, Charlie is a fairly shallow person. Looking out for only himself, doing everything and anything to make money and refusing to get close to anybody, even his girlfriend, Charlie learns more from Raymond than he ever thought possible. Though I try not to praise Tom Cruise’s acting skills very often, I have to say I was impressed with him in this role. The transformation in his character is visible. Furious outbursts at his brother become more in control as he starts to make an effort to understand his brother. When at first Raymond’s odd obsessions are annoying and misunderstood by Charlie, he begins to not only learn them but have them memorized to help his brother not have any outbursts. As they journey across the country Charlie learns about himself and even unlocks a few forgotten memories of his brother, explaining the name of the film at the same time.
In 1988, Rain Man beat out Working Girl, Dangerous Liaisons, Mississippi Burning and the Accidental Tourist. I have seen Mississippi Burning and while it is a great film, I believe that Rain Man was better. With a devastating ending, Rain Man brought me to tears and I have no doubt in my mind that it deserved a Best Picture win. Not only did the film bring home the Best Picture win but director Barry Levinson brought home the Best Directing Oscar and writers Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow brought won for Best Writing. Dustin Hoffman won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar and he certainly deserved it. He brought one of the greatest performances I have seen in a while to the film. There are very few times that I really and truly forget that I am watching somebody act and from the second he stepped on screen, Dustin Hoffman was not Dustin Hoffman, he was Raymond Babbot. The performance was jaw dropping. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing I thought it was.
Heart breaking, inspiring and full of brilliant performances, this is one of the best films I have watched while watching the Oscar Best Picture winners. I give this film a 9 out of 10. It is a film that everybody should see at one point in their life time.