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Rain Man

Dick De Jong
April 7, 2011
HDTV Solutions

What can be written about Rain Man that hasn't been scribbled in the twenty three years since it won four Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and for Best Actor, Dustin Hoffman as the emotionally distant but loveable, autistic savant, Raymond Babbitt.

And yes, I am one of those who believe that Tom Cruise's performance as brother Charlie is equal to Hoffman's. That he received no recognition from the Academy was an injustice - as understandable as it was.

As Director Barry Levinson, (who also won an Oscar), describes in the Audio Commentary, the film was shot in sequence and as the production progressed, Cruise and Hoffman found a rhythm.

Since Raymond maintains a constant beat, I think of him as the drummer. While Charlie, the saxophonist, responds with visceral riffs accompanied by that moonbeam smile.

Though when Raymond drums on and on and on about underwear, Charlie lets loose and breaks into a leg-kicking jig of frustration.

Rain Man

The Blu-ray master is good and the landscape during the cross-country road trip definitely shines in high definition. But Rain Man is also a journey inward that does not suffer from watching it on an SD DVD. Of course, if I had my choice, I would go Blu-ray.

I must recommend that if you have only seen Rain Man on TV chopped up by commercials, then treat yourself to an uninterrupted viewing of two great actors improvising - on a Oscar winning screenplay - like a pair of in sync jazz musicians.

Rain Man

Valerie Galino, plays Charlie's put upon girlfriend, Susanna, with a charming combination of strong will and tenderness. She is the trumpet in this trio, sometimes blaring and often sweet.

For the budding cinephiles, Hoffman has had an amazing career with many movies worth seeing more than once.

The obvious suggestion is Midnight Cowboy, the 1969 film where he plays the sweaty Ratso Rizzo side by side the studly Joe Buck (Jon Voight). For a complete change of pace, try the overlooked and understated Last Chance Harvey with the radiant Emma Thompson.

For Cruise, he tracks a similar arc in Jerry Maguire. And who can resist his is-that-really-Tom-Cruise-under-all-that-hair Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder, not to be confused with his more stereotypical Cruise role as Cole Trickle in Days of Thunder.

Special Features

This Blu-ray release does not add any new features to the ones on the original DVD. Of the three Audio Commentaries, I would start with Levinson's, which is the most informative and insightful. Though I liked Screenwriter Ron Bass's.

Rain Man

You might want to sample Barry Morrow's, who wrote the original draft of the screenplay. Both he and Bass received the Oscar. The parts of his commentary that I heard were oddly self congratulatory or off topic as the film is playing.

As one suckled on academe, I tend to wince when someone tries to be definitive about the causes of a complicated condition like autism. Rain Man did a great service in bringing this behavior to the public forefront. But in the featurette, "Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism," I feel that it is simply a snapshot of what was known back then.

Just as the experts in this program were shocked at the harm incurred by the old concept that autism was caused by an emotionally detached mother, I can only imagine what today's scientists think about the notion that the behavior of autistic people is unchanging.

This idea guided how Raymond's character was written and how Hoffman approached his performance. In Hollywood, where every screenplay needs an arc, Raymond is unchanging. In Rain Man, the conceit works because his constancy makes a flash point for the mercurial Charlie.

But in real life, the perception that autistic people are stuck in an unchanging behavioral pattern can become a self-fulfilling cage, limiting the possibilities for development.

Rain Man
Rain Man

Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment & MGM Home Entertainment & United Artists

Director: Barry Levinson

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valerie Galino, Gerald Molen, Michael Roberts, Bonnie Hunt

Length: 134 minutes

Rated: R

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

  DTS-HD MA 5.1
  5.1 DTS

English SDH, French

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