Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Tom
Cruise, Valeria Golino
Director: Barry Levinson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 134 Minutes
Release Date: February 3, 2004
Why should I be disappointed? I got rose bushes, didn't I? I got a used car,
didn't I? This other guy, what'd you call him."
him, he got three million dollars but he didn't get the rose bushes. I got the
rose bushes. I definitely got the rose bushes. Those are rose bushes!"
embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to finally sit down and discover
one of the most treasured films of the past 15 years, Rain Man. It's so ironic that I waited until now to experience it,
since I have praised just about every movie director Barry Levinson has made
prior to and following this Oscar winning movie. Even as I watch it for the
first time now, I'd be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the most fascinating
character portraits to ever come around, brought to life by two incredible
performances from its two lead actors.
The film begins by
introducing us to the brash, over-confident and ultimately self-centered Charlie
Babbit (Tom Cruise), an L.A. financial yuppie who is on the brink of a crisis
within his business. Charlie is also hit with an astonishing bit of news. The
news that Charlie's father has just passed away isn't the part that stuns him,
but rather the bit involving three million dollars left in the father's will,
not of penny left in Charlie's name. It is soon revealed that Charlie's
childhood wasn't a pleasant one, and that he resented his father by never
calling or visiting once becoming a successful businessman and that not getting
anything but a used car and some "rosebushes" was nothing short of
Just as Charlie is
left uncertain as to whom the fortune belongs to, he receives another shocking
discovery, while at the same time having his question answered. He discovers
that, to his astonishment, he has an older brother that nobody even bothered to
tell him about. His brother is Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who happens to be a
"high-level" autistic, having been institutionalized nearly all of his
life. Charlie, being hit with one too many surprises, decides to remove Raymond
from the mental home to take him to the brother's home back in California, but
it won't be easy.
Raymond is a unique
personality if there ever was one. He can go on with conversations, apply
himself to any sort of schedule, remember baseball statistics, recite dinner
menus, and stockpile knowledge of every name and number listed in a phonebook.
He can also erupt into sheer fright and become disturbed quite easily, which is
usually triggered by loud noises, unfamiliar elements like bath water, or fear
of flying, a fear which forces Charlie to drive Raymond cross country in the
1949 Buick his father left to him.
Without a doubt,
the most striking portion of Rain Man
comes mid-point in the story as Charlie, informed that his business in L.A. is
approaching the brink of being bankrupt, is hit with a spur of the moment plan.
Realizing that Raymond is genius in guessing equations, he speeds on over to Las
Vegas to use his brother as nothing short of a money making machine. Even though
Charlie is essentially as uncaring as a person can get, you kind of understand
his motive for choosing to do something of the sort. It goes without saying that
eventually he will be hit with a super guilt trip once realizing the
unpleasantness of his actions.
Watching the movie,
I understood right from minute one why Dustin Hoffman got the Oscar he received
for his groundbreaking and heartfelt performance as the mentally challenged
brother. Hoffman, one of the purest method actors of our time, is incredible in
the way that he never, for one second suggests the breaking of a character. It's
a performance, and a very challenging one, that is so very deserving of
appreciation in so many ways.
As for Tom Cruise,
this could probably be labeled as the first strong stepping point in the actor's
career. At this point, Cruise was on his way to near superstar status, and his
track record of performances usually consisted of ultimately cocky, but likeable
characters as in Top Gun. Although
Charlie isn't intended as a likeable character for about 2/3 of the way through,
Cruise's performance is indeed the promise that would payoff in later films like
Born on the Fourth of July and A
Few Good Men. On a side note, it helps to be prepared for a couple of
angry/high squeaky voiced Cruise outbursts, which is pretty much what makes Ben
Stiller's impression of him so darn hysterical.
In short, director
Barry Levinson no doubt made a career defining moment in the creation of Rain
Man. It's a pure journey of a movie, and a landmark triumph of storytelling
BONUS TRIVIA: Barry
Levinson himself appears as a doctor near the end of the movie.
I cannot offer any
comparisons between this release and MGM's first issuing of the movie, which if
I'm not mistake came out around the birth of DVD. Having said that, I have a
feeling that this one would win the prize in terms of transfer quality. The
anamorphic transfer is of exceptional range, especially for a movie from the
late 80s. The noted areas of clarity do a much impressive handling of the
movie's frequent settings that are within the cross country journey. There's a
hint or two of image softness, but they hardly begin to damage the overall
quality of the presentation.
Despite my rating,
I will mention that this 5.1 offering does have it highpoints in the areas of
music playback and dialogue delivery. The one element that cuts the credit by
half a star is a section or two, about midway through the movie, where I
detected a slight case of audio bleeding, which I haven't come across lately.
Other than that, the sound quality on the disc is of purely nice audio form.
First off, MGM has
truly delivered the first great packaged disc of 2004.
This new Special
Edition has all of the upgraded material it need to boot itself up from the
original, much more standard disc. Included are three commentary tracks; one
with Barry Levinson; the next with screenwriter Ronald Bass; the third with
co-screenwriter Barry Morrow. Also included is an original featurette, a deleted
scene, and a trailer and photo gallery.