Friday, February 17, 2012

Rain Man

Rain Man; drama, USA, 1988; D: Barry Levinson, S: Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Valeria Golino

Los Angeles. Car salesman Charlie Babbitt travels to Cincinnati, Ohio when he hears the news that his father died, with whom he lost every contact. Charlie finds out his father left 3 million $ to a man in a mental asylum - it turns out that man is Raymond, his autistic, older brother. Charlie is angry because nobody ever told him he had a brother, so he takes him on his way back home in order to get a part of the inheritance. Due to Raymond's photographic memory, Charlie manages to earn enough money in Las Vegas at cards for his business. Finding out Raymond is actually Rain Man, his "imaginary" friend from childhood, Charlie bonds with him. The asylum takes Raymond back, but Charlie promises to visit him.

If you ever wondered how a mediocre "Being There" or "Forrest Gump" would have looked like, "Rain Man" is the answer: sandwiched between those two giants about handicapped individuals that also used them as a subtle tool to place satirical observations about the society, this sentimental melodrama uses too many obvious cliches in presenting such human state and is today one of those best picture Oscar winners nobody really likes to watch. It is also bizarre that one of the greatest actors of the 20th century, Dustin Hoffman, won his second Oscar for such an obvious, easy and blatant Oscar bait role (basically, his Raymond is written in such a way that he only has two sides: either he is annoying or has a mathematical memory. There is nothing else to him), while so many of his far more complex performances were ignored - as an interesting footnote, from 1988 to '98, six out of ten Academy Award winners for best actor in a leading role were for handicapped roles, which says a lot about their imposing preferences. "The Mask" is far more somber considering that theme because it never shows any benefit of handicapped people, such as the Las Vegas sequence here. However, Barry Levinson is still a fine director which is why "Rain Man" is a good road movie, almost reduced to the core - the relationship just between the two protagonists. The best moment shows up when Charlie finds out Raymond was actually his "imaginary friend" Rain Man who comforted him during childhood, which gives a few clever and harmonious observations about "fallen heroes" and the clash between idealism and reality. Charlie's sudden fondness of Raymond does not seem natural, yet that does blend in with the overall duality of the story.


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