The film catches your attention right away with an opening sequence featuring a cover version of the song Iko Iko being played over the unloading of several Lamborghini Countachs. Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) has just imported them to re-sell for a big profit. Unfortunately, he runs into issues with this transaction and can’t take possession of the cars. Just as he is about to do a weekend getaway with his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) he gets news that his estranged father has died. Charlie flies across the country with Susanna to attend the reading of the will. He expects to hear that he has inherited all of his dad’s money, which will probably allow him to get his Lamborghinis out of trouble.
To his surprise he only receives a classic convertible that was the cause of some friction between him and his dad. His father left the bulk of his estate – three million dollars – to a trust. Charlie is pissed and quickly finds out that the beneficiary is a mental institution, and more specifically, a much older brother he never knew he had. His brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) is what used to be called an “idiot savant”. He is very detached emotionally, socially, and intellectually, but he also has a tremendous capacity for memorizing facts.
Charlie visits Raymond and on the spur of the moment he decides to essentially kidnap his brother from the facility he is in. Charlie intends to ransom Raymond back to their care in return for part of his father’s inheritance. Susanna doesn’t realize this originally, but when she does find out, she is pissed. She and Charlie fight and she leaves. Charlie tries to take Raymond onto a plane to fly home, but Raymond goes berserk, refusing to fly because planes crash – except for Qantas’ planes.
Charlie ends up taking Raymond on a cross country trip in the convertible their dad left him. Along the way he learns more about Raymond and the two start to form a bond. Even though this is a drama, there are some humorous moments with Raymond causing scenes, farting in a phone booth (an unscripted moment between Hoffman and Cruise), and counting cards in
. Of course, Charlie is still fighting with the lawyers over getting some money for giving Raymond back, but what if he comes to decide that he doesn’t want to send Raymond back? Las Vegas
The funny orgasm scene is early in the movie. Charlie and Susanna are having sex and Raymond hears them from his adjoining room. Not understanding what is going on, he walks into their room and sits down on the bed. He starts making little moaning noises to mimic Susanna, and when both Charlie and Susanna have their orgasms, Raymond emits a loud grunt, too. When Charlie finally comes to realize that Raymond is sitting on the bed, he goes ballistic. He yells at Raymond and sends him back to his room.
By the way, the Qantas statistic was made up by the writers. As it turns out, Qantas has had some crashes with prop planes, but none with jet planes. For some real world humor, when airlines showed this movie they all removed references to the statistics of planes crashing – except Qantas. I’ve heard a story that Qantas once found out that one of the writers of this film was flying with them and they upgraded him to First Class.
Hoffman won a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar. He spent a ton of time researching the role, and fully committed to the part. Once again, though, Cruise was overlooked by the Academy. He did not even receive a nomination for his performance.
This was nothing new; he had been overshadowed by Paul Newman’s performance (and subsequent Oscar win) in The Color of Money two years earlier. In Rain Man it had to be pretty damn hard for Cruise to act opposite someone who never made eye contact or engaged with him much at all. Many years after this film came out, and after getting some subsequent Oscar nominations, there was some retconning done by people looking back on this film, realizing that Cruise did an impressive job, and then trying to claim they had said this all along.
There’s not much reason to avoid this movie. Even if you are the kind of person who skips Oscar winning films because they are usually so outside the mainstream, Rain Man is not one of those movies. It is very accessible. I highly recommend this film.
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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