Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Picture: "Rain Man," 1988

Movie Stats:
Released 1988 (USA)
American, in English
Director – Barry Levinson
Stars – Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman

Plot Summary
After his estranged father dies, young, self-absorbed Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) discovers the brother he never knew he had, Raymond (Hoffman), a high-functioning autistic man who lives in a group home.

A copious amount of blue language; extremely brief nudity (female breasts – blink and you’ll miss it).

Bad Stuff:
The music is so incredibly terrible.

It annoyed me that some of the central questions of the story were never answered. Why, after Charlie’s mother died and his brother was placed in the home, was his father so cold to him? Why did no one ever tell him he had a brother? Why did they continue to try to keep it from him after his father died? It’s not as though Charlie doesn’t ask these questions; they’re just kind of shrugged off. It felt like lazy/unimaginative writing.

It was a little boring. Not “this feels like death by a thousand cuts” boring. More like “I’ve checked the clock more than once in the past ten minutes” boring.

Good Stuff:
Watching Charlie’s character grow was extremely satisfying. It was very difficult to watch him in the beginning, especially whenever he yelled at Raymond. Honestly, it was a bit distressing. By the end of the film, however, I was kind of rooting for him. Perhaps the writer expended all his creative energy on this part of the tale and that’s why some of the other stuff was left out.

Phenomenal job by Hoffman. I guess Cruise was good as well, but whenever he’s playing an asshole, I always feel like he’s just being himself.

It felt nice to laugh occasionally. I think this is the first 80s winner that had any genuinely funny moments.

The Verdict:
If you’re a friend of mine, then you’ll know that I’ve been staunchly anti-Cruise for a very long time. For as long as I can remember, in fact. I avoid his movies as much as possible and have never seen some of his most famous ones, including this one. I never would have watched it if not for this project.

I didn’t think it was bad, and I didn’t think Cruise was bad in it. However, I wasn’t especially wowed either. When it came down to it, I didn’t feel the emotional connection to this story that I have to some of the other really great 80s winners (Platoon, Terms of Endearment, Ordinary People). A story like this should forge that kind of connection. I’m not sure how, exactly, this movie could fall short of that, but it did for me.

Therefore, while I didn’t hate it, I’m not inclined to heap it with praise either. I think you’d probably like it. You’d probably enjoy both the story and the performances. But I don’t think you’ll be missing out if you never see it.

I give the movie 3.5 stars.


Patricia said...

But what about Iko Iko! I still love that song because of this movie. I'm singing it right now! And now you've hit the point where I was finally old enough to watch these movies when they came out. I remember watching this with my family and loving it.

Now, given how I feel about Tom Cruise, I don't know if I could watch it. Hmmm.

balyien said...

Keep it a distant, happy memory. :)