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USA 1988
Directed by
Barry Levinson
140 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Rain Man

Raymond or “Rain Man” Babbit was the last outstanding screen performance (at least to date) of Dustin Hoffman’s career and deservedly he received an Academy Award for it. The film also received Best Picture, Director and Screenplay Oscars although its glossy, high-end mainstream style tends to smother the core subject matter with a generic dressing.

Tom Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt, a young hustler who discovers that he has a seriously autistic older brother, Raymond (Hoffman), when their father dies and leaves all his assets, $3 million, to the latter. In an attempt to get the half of the estate he feels is due to him, Charlie surreptitiously removes Raymond from the Connecticut institution in which his brother has spent most of his life but as they drive back to LA together, Charlie comes to discover what an extraordinary individual Raymond is.

Rain Man skilfully combines the odd couple and road trip templates in a story of redemption, a winning trifecta although Levinson’s slick delivery, ably abetted by John Seale’s splendid landscape cinematography, ensures that nothing as unattractive as reality ever intrudes on the story’s seamless trajectory to a feel-good ending.  

Cruise is surprisingly effective as the emotionally-stunted user who learns about life’s real worth, but it is Hoffman who captivates us as Raymond (apparently Hoffman and Cruise’s roles were initially reversed). The marvel is that he brings us a character who actually has a very limited emotional range or ability to relate to people in any real sense, and makes us feel for him, much as Charlie does, without ever even making eye contact with anyone. It is an extraordinary performance by the best actor of his generation.




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