MOVIE: ***** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a fast-talking businessman who finds himself owing a huge financial debt. When he learns that his father has passed away, he eager attends the reading of the will only to find that his father’s money is left to his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). In an attempt to seize the money, Charlie leaves with his brother on a road trip, hoping that the trustee and doctor caring for Raymond will pay him off. However, after a cross-country road trip, Charlie learns to care for his brother he never knew he had.
WHAT I LIKED
“Rain Man” is one of those cinematic enigmas that crop up every decade or so. It wasn’t an expensive film, and it wasn’t a financial juggernaut right out of the gate. However, after being released, it spent many weeks at the top of the box office and eventually became one of the biggest hits of 1988. Like “The King’s Speech” last year, “Rain Man” saw its stars align, released just in time to keep a wave of buzz that helped it win the Oscar.
While Tom Cruise was a big star when this film was made, he wasn’t exactly a respected actor at the time. “Rain Man” (and not much later, “Born of the Fourth of July”) made people take notice of his acting ability, which kept him alive as a superstar through the early 2000s. It was the fact that he had something to prove with this movie that helped him deliver such a great performance, and together with Dustin Hoffman, they balanced each other well.
A lot of my love of “Rain Man” isn’t just for the film and the era, but for what was happening in my life. I was seventeen when it came out, and I had only recently graduated from strictly watching popcorn cinema to finding quality films. Add this to the fact that I saw it on a date with a girl that – until that afternoon showing – had only been a friend, and you have a perfect storm of nostalgia for myself.
But even without the nostalgia and the warmth of the time when I saw this film, it’s a great movie to revisit. The acting is superb. The directing is even and deliberate. Barry Levinson doesn’t cheapen the movie by making it falsely optimistic, but at the same time shows real growth in the character that matters – Charlie Babbitt.
Even watching it again after more than 20 years, “Rain Man” was powerful and evocative. It kept my attention even when I knew what was coming, and that’s a real testament to the life it has lived.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There was nothing I really disliked about the film itself. The only issue I really had was the Blu-ray transfer, which is always a struggle with films from the 80s and 90s. They were never mastered for high definition video, and they tend to be really grainy. But the transfer on this disc has a noticeable gate weave and some real contrast problems. While it’s not too distracting, especially as the film gets going, but the opening shot looks positively terrible. Fortunately, things get better from that point.
There are three audio commentaries included on the disc. One featuring Barry Levinson flying solo. The second features writer Barry Morrow. And the third features writer Ronald Bass. I love commentaries on films, and the presence of three on a disc is enough to bump this film to a buy rather than a rental.
Additional features includes featurettes from the DVD release several years ago: “The Journey of Rain Man” and “Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism.” There’s also the theatrical trailer and a deleted scene.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who like quality dramas.