R is for Rain Man, a drama from 1988 that won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards for Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. The film also won Best Picture, Best Director for Barry Levinson, and Best Actor for Dustin Hoffman. The film is about family ties, bonding between very different brothers, and a cross-country road trip in a Buick convertible. It is rated R.
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a high wheeler on a budget who buys and sells Lamborghinis. His assistant and girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) is a long-suffering woman who is growing frustrated with the closed off and distant Charlie.
When Charlie’s father suddenly dies, they travel to Cincinnati, Ohio for the services, and for Charlie to be present for the reading of the will. Although estranged from his father for years and years, Charlie still expects an inheritance. To his consternation, he is bequeathed only his father’s prized 1949 Buick Roadmaster and his rose bushes. All the rest has been left to the Walbrook Institute as a trust. A three million dollar trust.
Charlie and Susanna go to the Walbrook Institute in search of explanations for the mysterious reasons behind his father’s last wishes, and encounter Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), Charlie’s autistic savant older brother. This was the first time that Charlie realized he had a brother. Turns out Charlie was two years old when Raymond was institutionalized.
Charlie gets Raymond to walk away from Walbrook with him to take him to Los Angeles. His ulterior motives are to gain custody of Raymond and his $3,000,000. But Raymond being who he is, he will not get on an airplane. Thus begins a cross-country road trip for the brothers in the Roadmaster convertible all the way from Ohio to LA. Susanna has left Charlie due to his insensitivity and anger. During the trip that lasts much longer than it should, mainly due to Raymond’s fears and idiosyncrasies, Charlie learns things about Raymond, his father, and himself.
Some of the most famous scenes in Rain Man take place in Las Vegas where Charlie attempts to make some cash. Susanna shows up in Vegas and her sensitive scenes with Raymond are really touching. Traveling with someone who has autism is not easy for Charlie, and Dustin Hoffman gives a wonderful performance, so believable you will think he is on the autism spectrum, which has a wide range of characteristics. Tom Cruise delivers a spot on performance as the self-centered man whose brother with special needs makes him a little more compassionate, not in leaps and bounds, but gradually over several days. This makes Cruise’s performance essential to the story, and he did a great job in his role.
Have you seen Rain Man? Given what we now know about autism spectrum disorders these twenty years later (very few people diagnosed with autism have savant characteristics I might add), what is your opinion of the depiction of Raymond? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, and thanks for visiting.