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Self-centred car exporter Charlie Babbitt attends his estranged father's funeral to collect his inheritance. To his surprise, he discovers the money is going to Raymond, the autistic brother he never knew he had. Charlie 'kidnaps' Raymond in an effort to claim some of his inheritance but, as he grows closer to his brother, he realizes there may be more to life than money.
For more about Rain Man and the Rain Man Blu-ray release, see Rain Man Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on February 24, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Barry Levinson
Writers: Ronald Bass, Barry Levinson, David Rayfiel, Barry Morrow
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino, Jerry Molen, Jack Murdock, Michael D. Roberts
» See full cast & crew
Rain Man Blu-ray Review
“Let me let you in on a little secret, Ray. K-Mart sucks.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, February 24, 2011
Hollywood doesn't always handle mental disability with the nuance that the subject requires—this was parodied with semi-offensive brilliance in Tropic Thunder's "never go full retard" scene—but occasionally a movie gets it right, treating the sensitive topic with humor and compassion. One of the better examples is Rain Man, the 1988 drama that took home four Academy Awards—Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Actor in a leading role—but perhaps more importantly, spread awareness of autism, a largely misunderstood disorder that had never received much public attention. (Although, it should be said, the film also led to the major misconception that all autistics are high-functioning savants, which is definitely not the case.) Revisiting Rain Man this week, after not having seen it since the mid-1990s, I was struck by three things: 1.) Tom Cruise plays one of the great yuppie bastards of the 80s, 2.) Dustin Hoffman definitely deserved his Best Actor Oscar, and 3.) the film really shouldn't work but does somehow.
Let me qualify that last statement. Rain Man is the kind of film that you'd expect to be a total disaster—a pandering, sentimental slog that dangles mental retardation as juicy Oscar bait. (See Cuba Gooding Jr. in Radio.) Instead, it's funny and off-kilter, with a rather dour, nearly unresolved dénouement that's anything but the typical Hollywood Happy Ending. Tom Cruise is Charlie Babbit, a grey market Lamborghini dealer who seems to have taken the Gordon Gekko class on how to be a materialistic chump. When we meet him, his business is about to go bust thanks to a botched deal, but he's not too concerned. His wealthy, estranged father has just passed away, and Charlie expects to get the lion's share of his dead dad's $3 million estate. It comes as a shock, then, when the lawyer reads off the details of the will: Charlie gets his father's prized rosebushes and a sweet Buick Roadmaster convertible, but everything else goes to an unnamed beneficiary. Denied his birthright, he's finally got cause for alarm. Following the money trail back to a mental hospital outside Cincinnati, Charlie discovers he has an older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), a high-functioning autistic savant who's been institutionalized since childhood.
In a performance that all of others of its kind are measured against, Dustin Hoffman turns Raymond into one of the screen's great mentally challenged characters. Raymond is a man lost inside his own interior universe of useless facts and regimented routine. He can do insane mathematical calculations off the top of his head, but he has no clue that numbers can serve any meaningful purpose. (He thinks a new car and a candy bar both cost "about a hundred dollars.") He knows what days he gets a pudding cup for lunchtime dessert and he can keep track—to the minute—of when his favorite TV shows come on, but any divergence from these scheduled regularities is greeted with out-of-control anxiety. And although he repeats the old "Who's on First?" Abbott & Costello comedy bit anytime he gets nervous, the sketch is merely a mantra—the humor of it is completely lost on him. Mentally, he functions more like a walking, talking calculator—constantly crunching the raw data of the world around him—than an expressive, emotional human being. Naturally, this extends to the character's physicality as well, and Hoffman imbues Raymond with all manner of precise but organic ticks, from the way he takes extremely small steps and shields his ears from loud noises to his ever-tilted head and thousand-yard-stare. It's a portrayal that's sympathetic without being schmaltzy, funny without making fun.
The ensuing story—in which Charlie essentially kidnaps Raymond and takes him on a cross-country road trip, hoping to find a way to weasel his way into their father's money—doesn't hold many surprises. There are the expected on-the-road adventures, including a pit stop in Las Vegas once Charlie learns that Raymond can count cards, but as in most road movies, the sequence of events that occurs as they make their way from Cincinnati to Los Angeles really just serves to facilitate the mental and emotional transformation that the characters make. Well, one character anyway. Raymond doesn't change. He's immutable, locked into his idiosyncratic, incomprehensible mindset, unable to communicate and incapable of making emotional connections. What the film shows us, however, is how alike the two brothers actually are. Like Raymond, Charlie simply can't understand other people's feelings. He's cold and brash, egocentric and remote. His relationship with his girlfriend, Susana (Valeria Golino), is a one- sided affair, and he shows an extreme insensitivity when dealing with his newfound brother's autism. At first, that is. Rain Man, of course, is actually about Charlie and the slow softening of his character. And yet, this isn't A Christmas Carol. Charlie isn't some miraculously altered Scrooge who will be doling out turkeys on Christmas morning by the end of the film. It's to the credit of director Barry Levinson and writers Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass that Charlie's arc isn't unbelievably drastic, devolving into some weepy plea for forgiveness. Instead, the changes are subtle. He's still an oblivious yuppie at the conclusion, but his worldview has been opened up somewhat and you get a sense that he might treat others a little differently in the future.
Rain Man Blu-ray, Video Quality
Although it's certainly a noticeable upgrade from the DVD, Rain Man's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer seems to be sourced from an old master, as it exhibits two issues that you don't expect to see on most contemporary releases. For one, edge enhancement is often noticeable in the form of sometimes black, sometimes whitish ringing around certain outlines. Many scenes also appear to have been given a pass through a noise reduction filter, which has the effect of softening fine textures. I want to emphasize, though, that neither of these traits are major distractions. (The image never even remotely comes close to the waxy, shiny, plasticine extremes of, say, the Predator re-release.) You do get a feeling, however, that the picture could look better with a fresh re-master. On the plus side, simply putting the film on Blu-ray yields appreciable improvements over any standard definition release. The sense of clarity is better refined—even if light DNR and edge enhancement occasionally play tug of war with the picture quality— and although skin tones can veer towards the salmon-ish, color is otherwise strong and striking, especially when Charlie and Raymond arrive at the neon extravaganza that is Las Vegas. Finally, aside from some scattered noisiness, compression concerns are kept to a minimum. I have mixed feelings; the image here is definitely acceptable, but I honestly expected better for such a high-profile catalog title.
Rain Man Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I have no reservations at all, on the other hand, about the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which handles all the aural essentials easily. Of course, the most notable aspect of the mix is Hans Zimmer's score, his first gig as a composer for a Hollywood film. The music is heavy on Peruvian flute and other unexpected ethnic sounds—it's definitely dated now—but it sounds great, with clarity throughout the dynamic range and plenty of low- end oomph when needed. The rear channels are not especially active—you'll hear some quiet ambience and acoustic effects, like reverb in the hangar where Charlie operates his grey-market business—but there's a suitable sense of atmosphere, and dialogue throughout is clean and easy to understand. Do note that along with the standard English SDH subtitles, the disc comes fully loaded with several dub and additional subtitle tracks.
Rain Man Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Rain Man Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There have been many imitators—I Am Sam, Radio, The Other Sister—but there's only one Rain Man, a fine film about two surprisingly similar characters who each have an inability to communicate and connect with others. I wish the film had gotten the reissue treatment it deserves—new features, a newly re-mastered transfer, etc.—but this is still a great release to add to your Blu-ray collection. Recommended!
Rain Man: Other Editions
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• $5 Coupon for Rain Man Blu-ray - February 15, 2011
Coupons.com has a printable coupon good towards the purchase of the Rain Man Blu-ray, which streets today. To access it, go to the Coupons.com website, click on the "Entertainment" tab and the coupon will show up on the coupon display area, on the second page. ...
• Last Tango in Paris, Moonstruck, Rain Man Blu-ray Detailed - February 9, 2011
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