Remember that transcontinental flight from my first review? Well, there was time enough to show Rain Man as well, only without the F-word, call and respond sex scene or gloomy airport statistics.
Tom Cruise plays Charlie, a selfish, fast talking business man with a short temper. After his father dies, he is left nothing but a car and the prize winning rose bushes. Some mystery man has been left the three million his father was worth. Charlie discovers that the beneficiary is his long lost brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), whose been living in a mental institution since Charlie was three years old. In a fit of selfish anger and stupidity, Charlie takes Ray away from the institute, pretty much like a hostage, hoping that once he returns Ray he can have his half of the inheritance.
It’s not easy to take a man like Ray on a cross country road trip. You see, Ray isn’t really retarded, as most people label him, but autistic. He has certain rituals he has to keep to, and if he deviates from them he freaks out. Ray has to recite Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First? every time they go anywhere. If he doesn’t watch his shows right on time, he has a fit. And he has to eat all his food with toothpicks. Of course, these antics start to drive Charlie up the wall, but through the trip he discovers there’s more to Ray. He finds an amazing brother to bond with.
This is Dustin Hoffman’s greatest role, and it’s always fun to see Tom Cruise play second banana to “a retard.” The way Ray is so withdrawn from others and constantly babbling random facts and statistics is sight. You can’t write him off as stupid, he can memorize half a phone book in one night. Ray is always looking upwards, with a blank but curious stare, like a day dreamer who’s not quite sure what to dream about. Hoffman doesn’t take one word or nod of the head for granted, it’s always perfectly Ray, and that deserves the Oscar.
Now most of the population considers Rain Man a moving triumph in film and others call it “that one about Tom Cruise and the retard.” Where ever you may land on the cultural/geological map, Rain Man is worth the view. It’s a sweet story about acceptance and appreciation of others, no matter their circumstance. They might just surprise you along the way.
It’s also really funny, you will laugh at Hoffman’s performance, not because you laugh at the less functional, but because Ray is so genuinely adorable it’s funny. On that flight, I remember laughing just a little too much at the scene were Ray and Charlie are stuck in a phone booth. The old German man next to me didn’t quite agree, but nuts to him. You don’t need a reason to watch Rain Man, it’s just natural for everyone.
“I’m an excellent driver.”