Friday, 10 April 2015

Rain Man

David Martin enthuses about the brilliance and performances on show in Rain Man. Who's on first base?...

It's hard to believe now but there was a time when Tom Cruise wasn't the highly regarded actor he is now, that was before Rain Man. Before 1988 Cruise was carving a very lucrative and successful career starring in box office smashes like Top Gun and Cocktail. Most were great films but lacked a certain, how shall I say, gravitas they were all foam and not much substance. Don't get me wrong, I love Top Gun and who amongst us didn't want to run a bar after watching Cruise in action in Cocktail. His career was on the up but unless he demonstrated he was more than a one trick pony he would have probably suffered the fate of Emilio Estevez and others of his ilk. Looking back now, it would be difficult to see Cruise's career lasting into the new millennium like it undoubtedly has.

I was excited about the pitch for Rain Man and its easy to see why. The genius of Dustin Hoffman portraying a high functioning, autistic savant was a mouth watering prospect and Hoffman was the box office draw. Cruise, for me at least, was the comic relief and the eye candy for the ladies. How wrong was I! To watch Cruise and Hoffman onscreen was to see film chemistry like I had never seen before and the character development was absolutely sublime. Rain Man won 4 Academy Awards and whilst not being perfect it serves as the defining moment for Cruise as it opened up a whole new genre of films. Rain Man silenced the critics and proclaimed to the whole world that "yes this man can act"

Rain Man charts the story of Charlie Babbit (Cruise) as he attempts to steal his late father's estate away from his brother, Raymond (Hoffman.) Charlie wasn't even aware of the existence of Raymond, who had been languishing in a mental institution for many years. In order to gain control of his father's millions, Charlie takes custody of Raymond and embarks on a roadtrip back to Los Angeles. Raymond has strict routines which he has to follow at all times to avoid extreme mental torment and loud outbursts. Charlie is a self obsessed, materialistic individual who cannot comprehend the issues that Raymond has to face. Raymond refuses to fly because he remembers every plane crash that has ever occurred and is terrified of being hurt. During the road trip, Charlie learns more about Raymond and that he has a phenomenal memory. It becomes clear to Charlie that the comforting figure of his childhood, Rainman, was Raymond and he used to live in the family home.

Charlie And Raymond

Cruise's performance as Charlie is simply astounding, he takes him from a self seeking idiot to a caring and compassionate person who is at least attempting to be different. The scenes that show Charlie clashing with Raymond over his instance of watching People's Court and Judge Wapner are hilarious. For me the defining moment is where Charlie attempts to show Raymond that he simply does not get the point of the "who's on first base, who's on second base" skit, made famous by Abbott and Costello. Raymond quotes it verbatim without any nuance or understanding of comic timing. The film ends with Charlie sending Raymond back to the mental institution with a promise he will visit in two weeks.

Hoffman's performance as Raymond is a masterclass in timing and restraint with one critic commenting that "even Hoffman's small toe would be playing the part of a savant" I've always enjoyed Hoffman's acting and his diversity is never more obvious than in Rainman. I have to be honest, it is far too long since I watched Rainman but it is something I intend to remedy. I would urge you to revisit or watch for the first time as it is a film that still to this day enthrals and entertains.
Quantas never crashed!
David Martin is a firm believer in wider reading but also spends his time watching horror films and going to the theatre. He has been known to venture outside but prefers worlds he can imagine. Follow him on Twitter at @ventspleen2014

Images From IMDB

1 comment: