Before I start my review of Rain Man, I want to tell you a story about a little boy named Jonah.
Jonah was seven years old, autistic, and in the special education kindergarten class that I worked as a paraprofessional in a few years ago.
He was ridiculously smart but unfocused, knew his times tables but sometimes hit the teachers or the other kids when he was overstimulated. I loved this kid, partially because how can you not love a little boy who snuggles up to you during rest time and wants to listen to you read a Spongebob book, but also because, although he almost never showed it the way other kids might have, I could tell that in this quirky little Jonah way, he liked me too.
Months after I left his classroom, I came back to fill in for one day as a substitute. Most kids would have forgotten my name by then -- so many other things on their mind and social interactions to experience and catalog.
But when I saw Jonah, he handed me his backpack and without looking at me (he always talked to you and never looked at you) told me that he missed me. When I see Raymond in this movie, I think of Jonah. That's why I can't stand Tom Cruise's character in Rain Man.
I'm sorry, this is something I need to get off my chest. Tom Cruise's character in Rain Man is a weapons grade douchebag. That I am willing to call him a cockjuggling thundercunt when I know for a fact that my mother is reading this review should come close to expressing my distaste for Charlie Babbitt. But I'm only one person, with only so many swear words. That's why I'm enlisting the aid of this video to truly show my feelings. Seriously, he is awful.
So basically there's this jerk named Charlie Babbitt who makes a living by importing foreign sports cars in the shadiest way possible. Something about his enterprise does not seem entirely legal. At the beginning of the film, he learns that his father has died, but it's ok because he and Charlie did not get along very well. They were engaged in a classic father-son contest of trying to out asshole one another. Let's take a look at the facts.
Charlie's dad is a strict, withholding love type guy. He won't let his teenage son drive his prized vintage car, which honestly seems less like assholery and more like good old common sense.
Charlie responds to this outrage by taking the car anyway, and going for a joy ride with several of his friends. His father's move is to report the car stolen, then letting Charlie sit in jail for the weekend to think about what he's done.
Also, he neglected to tell his son that he secretly has an autistic older brother named Raymond, who was sent to an institution at the age of 18. Whoops. But more about that later.
So there's definitely blame to share here, but two douchebags don't make a right, right?
Anyway, Charlie goes home for the funeral and discovers that his father left him the car that ruined their relationship, but left his vast fortune to someone else. That's ice cold, dad. Although if Charlie Babbitt was my son, I would do more than leave him out of my will, I would probably put him in the ground myself.
He spends the next HOUR of the film bitching about his circumstances to anyone who will listen and some people who just happen to be near him. He's nasty as hell to his girlfriend, who happens to be the most level-headed and loving individual in the entire film. Ironically, he spent his life bitter at his father for never letting him near the car, but within 24 hours of owning it, he's pulling the same condescending "the car is not a toy" bullshit with his girlfriend. She should leave him, like, yesterday.
When he goes off to investigate where his money is, he discovers that it has been left to his brother. The brother he didn't know existed, who was institutionalized when Charlie was a toddler.
So naturally, he does what any normal person would do. He kidnaps his autistic brother, thinking that they will obviously give him the money if he commits a felony and disrupts the care of a person with a neurological disorder who depends on rules and rituals to keep themselves functioning. What. the. fuck.
To make matters worse, he spends the entire roadtrip back to Los Angeles yelling at Raymond and basically being a pretty abusive caretaker. He acts like Raymond is putting him out and making all these outrageous demands on him when it's like, you're the one who willingly took a man who has been staring at the same four walls for like 20 years and pulled him out of his comfort zone. People with autism aren't exactly known for their love of breaking routine.
Anyway, as the movie goes on, Charlie begins to find all of his brother's bumps and quirks somewhat endearing, and a bond develops between the two of them. In my opinion, it's too little too late, because you shouldn't have to love a person to treat them with respect and dignity, but that's neither here nor there.
And also, one has to ask the question, how much does his love for Raymond have to do with the fact that he's really good at gambling? If it was a normal person, you wouldn't even think of it, but Charlie has proven himself to be a pretty opportunistic little shit. (Side note: why do characters in movies go to the casino fully intending to break the rules, then stay at one table and win so much money that the casino inevitably gets suspicious and kicks them out? If it was me, I would switch casinos, winning $5000 here, $5000 there. Yeah it might take longer, but you're not going to get your arm broken by Big Frankie in the back alley.)
Let's talk about Dustin Hoffman as Raymond for a little while (I think I'm going to break a blood vessel if I talk about Charlie anymore). His performance is one that really does deserve all of the praise that it gets, even if it does perpetuate the idea that people with autism are "idiot savants" (their phrase, not mine) with special skills. Raymond is a fully developed person who is more than just his idiosyncrasies, and a lesser actor than Hoffman wouldn't have been able to accomplish that. What's more, you see with his interactions with Charlie and his caretakers that there is real affection there, even if it only shows in seemingly insignificant ways.
So yeah, Raymond was awesome -- it just killed me to watch his idiot brother do exactly the wrong things and treat him like shit for the better part of two hours. Good film? Yes. One that makes me supremely angry at the protagonist? Also yes.