#247 Rain Man (1988)


133 Minutes

Director: Barry Levinson

Writers: Barry Morrow (story and screenplay), Ronald Bass (screenplay)

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino

Storyline: “Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt’s father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.” IMDB


Brit Boy:

I last watched this film a great number of years ago, I’m guessing when it first came out on video maybe around 1991 / 1992, I didn’t remember a great deal about this film apart from the opening scene where the Lamborghini’s are being unloaded from the container ship to the sound of Iko Iko.

I was looking forward to watching this early Tom Cruise film, not a great fan of his, apart from the incredibly foolish and self indulgent Mission Impossible films (funnily enough Iko Iko was actually used in the soundtrack for Mission Impossible II, this time covered by Zap Mama). I was quite intrigued to see how superficial his contribution was going to be, to a film which won 4 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

American Girl:

I remember watching Rain Man, but it has been many years.  I believe I watched it when I was 13 (about when the movie was probably released).  I remember thinking it was funny, and thinking Tom Cruise was really cute (this was before the whole Scientology thing, and jumping on Oprah’s sofa).  I remember that Dustin Hoffman’s character had some sort of mental illness and that Tom Cruise’s character was his brother.  I distinctly remember Hoffman’s character being able to calculate numbers quickly, and also rambling off when certain airlines had crashed (this could have started my fear of flying, which I have luckily been able to overcome at the age of 35).  Besides these few random tidbits, I remember little else of the movie.  

I find humor in the fact that Brit Boy distinctly remembers Lamborghini’s while all I can remember are planes crashing…

All of that being said, I am looking forward to watching it again with fresh eyes and an older (wiser?) mind.

Set the Scene

American Girl and I watched this over another Skype date, this time limiting each other to one glass of red wine each. This meant that American Girl would stay awake during the film, and I would remain focussed, bring on the original Hoff…..

Final Cut / Review

As soon as “Iko Iko” started playing in the opening scene I was hooked!  It had been ages since I have heard this song and it was a real trip down memory lane (granted I am accustomed to the Cyndi Lauper version of Iko Iko and I don’t know who was singing this version but I am sure Brit Boy will figure this out for me).

Its really interesting that you remember the Cyndi Lauper version because to my knowledge (and that of the “all knowing” worldwide web…), she never actually released it. My guess is that you owned her True Colors album (notice I used the “wrong” spelling for you 😉 ). The version used in this film was actually by the Belle Stars. I’m not really sure whether this was actually a hit for the Belle Stars at the time but its certainly the most memorable moment in the film for me.

It turns out that the Belle Stars are a UK Ska Band formed in the early 80’s, Iko Iko reached No. 35 in the Uk charts in 1982 (Pre-Rain Man) and No. 14 in the Billboard Charts in 1989 (benefitting from this film’s release).

As I have already mentioned in my disposition, the opening scene was my most memorable of the film from my last viewing, and certainly didn’t disappoint. Once again I am sucked in by a great opening track and some amazing shots of the Lamborghini Countach dreamily floating across the screen.


Brit Boy a “Lamborghini Countach”, did you have to google that?  I took a few notes for this film, and my first one states “great opening song, fancy sports cars” but somehow you come up with a Lamborghini Countach….? Boys.

Hmmm…… I’m not sure that one of the iconic modern day “Super Cars” can be classed as mere fancy, but I will let that one slide American Girl.

With only a very vague recollection of the plot and the rationed wine I begin to realize very quickly that I do not like Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), he is a self obsessed, annoyingly horrible individual.

This leads me to some inner turmoil, how much of his character is just Tom Cruise (public persona or otherwise) and how much is actually some reasonably ok acting? Maybe I’m doing Mr. Cruise a disservice, but next to the incredibly outstanding Dustin Hoffman I think anyone would look average. Hoffman’s portrayal of an Autistic Savant, Raymond Babbitt is absolutely sublime and completely believable, I’m not sure of the amount of research that he undertook before taking on the role but if his characterization is anything to go by it was amazingly thorough.

I completely agree with Brit Boy that Charlie Babbit’s character is “annoying horrible” (besides his great 80’s hair), but what shocked me beyond belief was that Raymond was institutionalized just for being autistic.  Being a mother of three kids, I have had PLENTY of friends which have tried to convince me that vaccinating my children can cause autism.  “Autism” is such a hot button word in our society right now, and something many people have to deal with in their daily lives. It is even becoming common in popular media with the likes of Jenny McCarthy and the TV show “Parenthood”.  I must admit that what impacted me the most about this movie is our society’s exposure/acceptance of “autism”.  I do not want this blog to turn political, but I am amazed at how far we have grown in twenty years with regard to this condition.

I feel exactly the same, Autism is nowadays very definitely a socially acceptable condition, and I am truly amazed that it was viewed as an almost untreatable “lock you up” illness as recently as 25 years ago. I’m really proud at how we as a society have progressed, at least with regard to this (don’t get me started about society as a whole….).

The struggles Raymond has with “real life” are clearly epitomized by his reaction to a suggested plane journey by Charlie. Raymond refuses to travel on particular airlines because of the number of fatalities, which leads to a very vocal and heart-rending breakdown. I’m not surprised that American Girl remembers this scene clearly.

I delved into wikipedia with regard Raymonds  statement about Qantas in this scene:

“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. The most-recent fatal accident suffered by Qantas was in 1951.”

In a bizarre way the airplane scene really does sum up this movie.  While Rain Man is not an action packed, edge of your seat movie, most likely it will resonate with you in some way.  Whether it is a “super car” at the beginning, a great song, or an outburst at an airport, some portion of this movie will leave a lasting impression.  You may not remember everything, but you will remember something.  One thing that can be said for certainty is that Hoffman delivered an outstanding performance.  If you watch it for nothing else, watch this movie for Hoffman’s impeccable and entirely believable acting. There is a reason he is ranked among the best.

This definitely deserves to be on our list, whether it should be higher up remains to be seen, after all I’m sure that many of the films we are yet to see, do not have any Academy Awards, never mind four! I’m really glad that I took the time to revisit this film, and although I had a very melancholy feeling after watching it, I did feel positive, as I’ve stated above, that society has progressed and Autism is at long last accepted.

If you liked this movie there are some interesting factual “nuggets located here.

Footnote  – Six Degrees of Sir Richard Attenborough

So I did a bit of trawling about, and the connection in this blog to Sir Richard Attenborough, is… that he and Tom Cruise both attended the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.


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