I had forgotten how much I adore this movie. It’s by far my favorite we’ve watched so far. Dustin Hoffman plays Raymond, the autistic savant brother that cocky, wheeler-dealer Charlie (Tom Cruise) never knew he had. Through the course of the movie, the two form a seemingly impossible bond on a road trip. The film begins when Charlie learns his father has passed away. This interrupts his life in Los Angeles, where he dates a beautiful Italian woman, deals luxury cars, and shoots off his mouth. He travels back to his hometown of Cincinnati for the funeral and the reading of his father’s will. The two were estranged, and Charlie is only given the classic car that ultimately led to their undoing – he borrowed it as a teen expressly against the will of his father. He becomes determined to find out who is getting access to his father’s millions, and the search leads him to an institution and a brother he never knew – Raymond. He decides to take Raymond with him back to Los Angeles – in the hopes of leveraging him to get some of his father’s estate. He soon realizes that Raymond will challenge him in ways he never imagined, and will help him to recover parts of himself lost long ago.
I’d seen this before, but only as a youngster. This time around I caught a lot more of the subtlety, particularly in the interactions between Charlie and Raymond. Charlie is the true 80’s Guy, high strung and materialistic. Remember those tacky “he who dies with the most toys” bumper stickers? I didn’t see one on Charlie’s car, but probably just because he was concerned about it’s resale value. At the point he meets his brother, he is juggling the details of a high stakes deal that will make or break his business. Raymond is his foil in seemingly every way. Unable to understand or engage the world outside his own mind, his life is built on routine and repetition, resting on his remarkable abilities of memory and mathematical calculation. He can sit at a casino table and win hand after hand of blackjack by keeping track of the cards in his head without ever comprehending that he is playing for money. He recites Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s On First” routine verbatim with no realization that it was intended to be funny. He watches the same television shows as a daily ritual and knows exactly what to expect on his table at any given meal.
Susanna, Charlie’s girlfriend, plays an important role in the film by critiquing Charlie’s initial interactions and motivations with Raymond. However, it’s also extremely important to the development of the relationship between the two brothers that she leaves them for a time. In this period, Charlie finally learns that the magical childhood friend he remembers vaguely – “Rain Man” – was actually Raymond. The two connect in several touching scenes, and Charlie gets insight along the way about the gifts that his brother possesses in addition to his deficits. We’ve touched on the counting that Raymond is able to do – interestingly, though, this film is known for promulgating the myth that counting cards is illegal. It actually is not. There are crucial moments in which Charlie’s emotional deficits loom as large as Raymond’s – and underscore the reality that their burgeoning relationship is symbiotic, that in the absence of their father they both desperately need one another. The unerringly human portrayal of Continue reading