Rain Man (1988)
usnook | 2013-11-29 19:00

Rain Man is a 1988 American drama film directed by Barry Levinson and written by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass. It tells the story of an abrasive and selfish yuppie, Charlie Babbitt, who discovers that his estranged father has died and bequeathed all of his multimillion-dollar estate to his other son, Raymond, an autistic savant of whose existence Charlie was unaware.

The film stars Dustin Hoffman as Raymond Babbitt, Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt and Valeria Golino as Charlie's girlfriend, Susanna. Morrow created the character of Raymond after meeting Kim Peek, a real-life savant; his characterization was based on both Peek and Bill Sackter, a good friend of Morrow who was the subject of Bill, an earlier film that Morrow wrote. Rain Man received overwhelmingly positive reviews at the time of its release, praising Hoffman's role and the wit and sophistication of the screenplay.

The film won four Oscars at the 61st Academy Awards (March 1989), including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Hoffman. Its crew received an additional four nominations.  The film also won the Golden Bear at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival.

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), Los Angeles car dealer in his mid-twenties, is in the middle of importing four grey market Lamborghinis. The deal is being threatened by the EPA, and if Charlie cannot meet its requirements he will lose a significant amount of money. After some quick subterfuge with an employee, Charlie leaves for a weekend trip to Palm Springs with his girlfriend, Susanna (Valeria Golino).

Charlie's trip is cancelled by news that his estranged father, Sanford Babbitt, has died. Charlie travels to Cincinnati, Ohio, to settle the estate, where he learns an undisclosed trustee is inheriting $3 million on behalf of an unnamed beneficiary, while all he is to receive is a classic Buick Roadmaster convertible and several prize rose bushes. Eventually he learns the money is being directed to a mental institution, which is the home of his autistic brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), of whose existence Charlie was previously unaware. This leads Charlie to ask the question that permeates the movie: "Why didn't somebody tell me I had a brother?"

Because Raymond has autism, he also has superb recall, albeit usually with little understanding of the subject matter, but has extreme skills in mathematics (in those scenes he merely remembers the answers, and with no understanding of currency). He is said to be a savant by some doctors. He is frightened by change and adheres to strict routines (for example, his continual repetition of the "Who's on First?" sketch). Except when he is in distress, he shows little emotional expression and avoids eye contact. Numbed by learning that he has a brother and determined to get what he believes is his fair share of the Babbitt estate, Charlie takes Raymond on what becomes a cross-country car trip (due to Raymond's fear of flying) back to Los Angeles to meet with his attorneys. Charlie intends to start a custody battle in order to get Raymond's doctor, Dr. Gerald R. Bruner (Jerry Molen), to settle out of court for half of Sanford Babbitt's estate so that the mental institution can maintain custody of Raymond. Susanna, disgusted by Charlie's self-centeredness and his attempts at using his brother as a pawn to gain the money, leaves Charlie in Cincinnati and disappears.

During the course of the journey, Charlie learns about Raymond's autism, which he initially believes is not authentic – resulting in his frequent frustration with his brother's antics. He also learns about how his brother came to be separated from his family, as a result of an accident when he was left alone with Charlie when Charlie was a baby. Raymond also sings "I Saw Her Standing There" by The Beatles like he did when Charlie was young, prompting Charlie to realize that Raymond is the protective figure from his childhood, whom he falsely remembered as an imaginary friend named "Rain Man", which was a mispronunciation of "Raymond". Charlie proves to be sometimes shallow and exploitative, as when he learns that Raymond has an excellent memory and takes him to Las Vegas to win money at blackjack by counting cards. However, toward the end of their trip Charlie finds himself becoming protective of Raymond, and grows to love him truly.

Charlie finally meets with his attorney to try to get his share of his inheritance, but then decides that he no longer cares about the money and really just wants to have custody of his brother. However, at a meeting with a court-appointed psychiatrist and Dr. Bruner, who is also a friend of Charlie's father and is left in charge of that money, Raymond is unable to decide exactly what he wants. Eventually, the psychiatrist presses Raymond to make the decision, upsetting him and leading Charlie to request that the doctor back off. Raymond is allowed to go back home to Cincinnati. Charlie, who has gained a new brother and mellowed considerably, promises Raymond as he boards an Amtrak train that he will visit in two weeks.

Rain Man won Academy Awards for Best Picture; Best Actor in a Leading Role (Dustin Hoffman); Best Director; and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. It was nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Ida Random, Linda DeScenna); Best Cinematography (John Seale); Best Film Editing; and Best Music, Original Score.

The film also won a People's Choice Award as the "Favorite Dramatic Motion Picture". At the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, the film won the Golden Bear award.

Effect on popular culture
Rain Man's portrayal of the main character's condition has been seen as inaugurating a common and incorrect media stereotype that people on the autism spectrum typically have savant skills, and references to Rain Man, in particular Dustin Hoffman's performance, have become a popular shorthand for autism and savantism. However, Rain Man has also been seen as dispelling a number of other misconceptions about autism and improving public awareness of the failure of many agencies to accommodate people with autism and make use of the abilities they do have, regardless of whether they are savant skills.  Rain Man has been listed as one of the best movies on the subject of autism.

The film is also known for popularizing the misconception that card counting is illegal in the United States.

In the course of the film, it is claimed that Qantas is the only commercial airline that has never had an aircraft crash. While it is true that the company has neither lost a jet airliner nor had any jet fatalities, it had eight fatal accidents and an aircraft shot down between 1927 and 1945, with the loss of 63 people. To this date, the last fatal accident suffered by Qantas was in 1951. The scene in which Raymond reels off a list of statistics of fatal airline crashes was cut by most airlines when showing the film in-flight – except for Qantas, which even promoted one of the movie's writers to first class when he traveled on their airline.

The use of the surname "Babbitt" for the brothers may be in homage to the Sinclair Lewis novel of the same name; Zenith, the city in the novel, is generally believed to be based on Cincinnati.

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