Rain Man is a movie that definitely has its share of admirers and one might even call it a modern classic since the plot, the performances and various scenes have become an integral part of movie history. Personally, I simply think that it’s a movie that is not for everyone…at least of all, me. It’s that combination of annoying characters, Dustin Hoffman’s monotonous performance, Tom Cruise’s usual stuff, an uninteresting plot and a kitschy solution that keeps me from enjoying it.
I know that people can probably find a lot of inspiration and warmth in watching Tom Cruise change from a cold-hearted, money-grabbing yuppie into a caring and loving brother but personally, I couldn’t care less, because the pairing of these two central characters makes it impossible for me. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman lack the necessary chemistry for this story and both actors seem more concerned with their own work instead of creating a believable relationship. I understand the point of Dustin Hoffman’s performance and I am sure that he portrays his character in the right way but he can’t stop me from sensing a constant awareness in his acting, an arrogance in his acting choices that constantly wants to draw attention to himself. I have seen other movies with autistic characters who felt real and believable but Dustin Hoffman is too often like fingernails on a blackboard.
I am also never sure what the movie wants to say – is Raymond some kind of supernatural superhero? Is his autism supposed to be great because he can count quickly and learn all the names in the phonebook?
The direction of the story lacks too much imagination for such an imaginative story – Levinson doesn’t seem to be able to decide if he wants to be over- or underwhelm the audience and so keeps pushing in both directions, often at the same time. Rain Man is also not an overly serious drama but it isn’t a comedy either – again, Levinson wants it both but it takes some skill to handle these two aspects. In the case of Rain Man, this concept failed completely since the movie makers try to get most of the comedy out of things that lay the dramatic foundation. This lead to the fact that the dramatic moments are never as gripping as they could be (the only really affecting moment comes when Charlie and Raymond talk in the bathroom about their past) while the comedy moments feel rather awkward and out-of-place.
The whole story of Rain Man feels incredibly forced and not like a true flow – Charlie kidnaps his brother, conveniently his girlfriend leaves, conveniently they can’t take the plan…bingo, a road-trip that gives Charlie the time to discover his inner softie.
I am also incredibly annoyed with the only female character in the story whose purpose I still haven’t figured out. She’s angry with Charlie for treating his brother so badly – and leaves? Only to come back later and to share an awkward scene with Raymond in an elevator? The fact that Valeria Golino almost sleepwalks through her performance doesn’t help the credibility of the character either…
The movie wants to create the comfortable aura of ‘feel-good’ while touching your heart and make you feel like it made you think but it’s all too superficial and poorly constructed. It also wants to create too much magic in the character of Raymond as if the audience couldn’t have accepted him otherwise but that way the whole story loses its concept and everything is lost once they get to Las Vegas and the story makes one mistake after another.
The movie does have some good moments and an interesting concept and it is a vast improvement compared to Cimarron and Cavalcade but still possesses too many problems to get a higher position.