When playboy Charlie Babbett’s (Tom Cruise) father dies, he leaves his fortune to the brother that Charlie never knew he had. Charlie tracks down his brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and finds that he is institutionalised and suffers from autism. He kidnaps him with the intention of holding him to ransom and together they embark on a road trip across America, during which the impatient Charlie becomes frustrated with his brother’s habits and mannerisms.
‘Rain Man’ is the ultimate road trip film, in which two brothers travel across America and find things about themselves that they never knew before, and it is a charming film.
Tom Cruise is not an actor who is always highly regarded. I feel, however, that in his defence, that it is more to do with the films in which he was in. His parts tend to be one dimensional action heros in which he is just unable to shine. But, give him a good part, like in ‘Rain Man’ or ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ and he is able to deliver. In this film he transforms from frustrated and jealous to a much more compassionate character. When he first spends time with Dustin Hoffman he finds him impossible, and this frustration is very real and believable. His transformation is slow and, once again, believable. For me, this is Cruise’s best role to date.
Despite this, it is Hoffman who shines. Dustin Hoffman is one of my favourite actors of all time. Like Meryl Streep he is able to play any part. His three performances in Oscar Best Pictures, in this, ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ and ‘Midnight Cowboy’ are totally different, and it’s impossible to mention Hoffman without acknowledging his perfect portrayal of Ben in ‘The Graduate’. Hoffman’s portrayal of Raymond Babbett in ‘Rain Man’ is one that no-one interested in film can miss. He shows how frustrating spending time with someone with autism must be, but rather than creating a overly sentimental film, he delivers his role with humour and integrity, and never for one second does not live the character.
This film could have been patronising and soppy, and with a lesser cast it could have been the ‘Forrest Gump’ of the 1980s. But, thankfully it is a charming and highly watchable film that engages from start to finish. Admittedly, the ending is predictable and the production is not the most exciting ever, but the script moves effortlessly from scene to scene which moves the film along at a healthy pace and the Hans Zimmer score really enhances the film: the main theme accompanies the theme of a journey both physically and emotionally.
At the end of the day, this film won due to the high quality level of acting found from beginning to end, and it is one of the best winners from the decade.