No 387 - Rain Man
Director - Barry Levinson
Oh Blog! I have neglected you. I have been a bad man and July has been a rubbish month for me actually having films and watching them.
I promise to rectify this in the upcoming months.
I find autism fascinating. I'm aware that that can make me sound a bit voyeuristic and a bit like a bastard, but what I mean is that it is genuinely a fascinating mental process - especially the Savant syndrome, which is what Raymond's condition is defined as.
My knowledge and interest on this stems initially from Daniel Tammet. If you have never read Born on a Blue Day, do so - you can get it for as little as a quid on Amazon. Bargain. It is an extremely fascinating read about how Tammet's condition allows him to complete massively complex mathematical and linguistic feats. The man is a genius, and yet when discussing his condition, you can see the limitations it imposes on him. Whilst he is a very social person, he has the confusion about emotion which is a big part of autism. The fascinating difference is that Daniel can explain it succinctly, and clearly express his point of view.
It is through the books and TV shows about Tammet that I also found out about Kim Peek, who was the inspiration for Raymond.
It is odd, considering what an iconic film Rain Man is, that I knew all the behind the scenes stuff before I saw the actual film. But what a great film it is.
Let me begin my discussion of it with a thought that began bubbling away in my brain after watching I *heart* Huckabees... Dustin Hoffman is a phenomenal actor. He is great. I can't think of a single role he has played where he hasn't been brilliant.
Even his non-iconic roles are astounding - he made Meet the Fockers almost bearable, and his cameo is without doubt the best bit in The Holiday.
He is a massively versatile actor, with a genuine skill at comedy. But he also has the ability to show amazing empathy, and express emotion (or in this case, lack of emotion) with unerring conviction.
His portrayal of Raymond is captivating and effortless. The blank vacant look on his face, the way he talks, his mannerisms, his posture - there is nothing about the performance that fails to convince the viewer of his character's condition. It is also, frankly, a bit funny. I'm sure it shows that I'm an evil hell-bound tasteless tactless swine, but I did have a little laugh whenever he said "Uh Oh!" - and the predicaments he gets in (often through his insistence that he should definitely be doing something) are amusing.
I think it is the mix of his monotone dead-pan delivery and Tom Cruise's exasperation which provides the humour.
That seems a bit more of an acceptable explanation, anyway.
So, let's talk about Tom Cruise - because this is a 2 man film really, and whilst Hoffman is the star, Cruise is surprisingly good (and as mentioned, provides the perfect platform for Hoffman to work from and against).
If this top 500 challenge has taught me one thing, it is that Tom Cruise is a better actor than I had previously given him credit for. I blame things like this for tarnishing my opinion.
It seems that Cruise shines best when playing a bastard. Here he is great - and whilst he begins as a cruel piece of work (antagonising an autistic.... really) - you believe in his character's development, and the bond between them is very moving. If he would just move away from the rubbish film stuff then I'd be happy.
So besides the terrible 80's fashions (don't button your shirt up if you're not going to wear a tie) and one really awkward 'seduce the autistic guy in a lift' scene, this is a film that really stands the test of time - mainly due to the excellent relationship between Charles and Raymond. And seeing as that is what the film is actually all about, then that's as good a recommendation as any.