Rain Man: A Timeless Classic

Rain Man 1988Source: ArmchairCinema.com

At the height of Tom Cruise’s career, he stepped out of his comfort zone to take on a role that would remain, well at least to myself, one of his best character portrayals – that of a self-absorbed, unhappy workaholic, Charlie Babbitt. Even more memorable was the award-winning performance from Dustin Hoffman, who starred alongside Cruise as his autistic brother, Raymond.

The storyline is simple – the character exploration, complex. To summarise, Charlie is cut out of his father’s inheritance, left in a trust to take care of an older brother he hadn’t known about. Angry about the situation, he takes Raymond out of a mental home and drives him down to California in the 1949 Buick his father had left him. The journey turns into a voyage of discovery for the siblings. While Raymond is ‘definitely’ not capable of change, Charlie has to come to grips with his own emotional shortcomings.

Secrets to its Success

Rain Man turned out to be the highest grossing film of 1988, earning over $354 million worldwide. But what ultimately made it such a huge success with audiences across the globe? One undisputed reason would be the incredible cast. Tom Cruise was still a hit at the box office with Cocktail having been released earlier in 1998 and Top Gun, just two years prior. Dustin Hoffman too, was already a household name with movies like Kramer vs. Kramer and Tootsie to his name. However, the role of Raymond Babbitt, and resulting nominations and awards, would reinvent his career once more.

The storyline itself, followed a tried and trusted formula, forcing two opposing personalities to spend time together in order to build on their relationship. It creates the perfect backdrop for growth and acceptance. But there’s one hiccup – Raymond’s is incapable of change, leaving it up to the stubborn Charlie, who finds his brother’s behaviour excessively frustrating, to go the distance. But will he? Can he? Along the way, his egotistical nature even drives him to exploit Raymond’s numerical abilities to by getting him to count cards at a Las Vegas blackjack table.

Ultimately, Charlie’s demeanour shifts from a materialistic, money-hungry individual to a significantly more patient younger brother who realises that the emotional value of the relationship with Raymond, far outweighs any monetary gain. It’s amusing, serious, entertaining and touching all in one, with no predictable happy ending, but the believable character portrayals by both leading men, moved audiences. In the end, Charlie, who was seemingly incapable of caring about anybody else, discovers that he loves his brother, just as he is.

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Awards and Nominations

It came as no surprise when Rain Man received 8 nominations for the 1989 Academy Awards. In the end, it took home four awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and of course, Best Actor in a Leading Role – Dustin Hoffman. It also received two Golden Globe awards, one for Best Motion Picture Drama and another for Best Actor – Dustin Hoffman.

Where are They Now?

Fast forward 30 years and there is likely not a single soul on the planet who wouldn’t recognise Tom Cruise’s name. During the last three decades, he completed 6 Mission Impossible movies alone, along with numerous other box office hits, and is estimated to have amassed a fortune worth over $550 million. Dustin Hoffman, now in his eighties, also continued to churn out a slew of memorable movie titles, and earn various industry Lifetime/Career Achievement Awards, including the prestigious Cecil B. Demille Award. The two leading men haven’t teamed up on the silver screen since Rain Man, but with the indisputable chemistry they had, we can only hope they do again.

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