Monday, September 24, 2007

Why I Hate Rain Man



This weekend, my friend Brian e-mailed me and out of the blue asked me why am I so down on the movie Rain Man. It seemed too complicated an answer to give on e-mail, so I thought I would write a post about it. Yes, it's almost 20 years old, but I think some of my concerns are still valid today and although it received numerous awards and huge fanfare from audiences and critics, I think it's a flawed film.

I saw this movie three times in the movie theaters because I truly felt there was something wrong with me for not liking this film. But this film didn't work for me on several different levels. First and foremost, I never bought into the relationship between Raymond (Hoffman) and Charlie Babbitt (Cruise). And by saying that, I mean to say that the depth of Cruise's character was never truly explored. I knew him as a whiny get rich quick salesman and nothing more. One moment Charlie is using Raymond for his own personal gain as a card counter in Vegas, then he's defending him to the Therapist played very annoyingly by Levinson as the end? Granted, we have to give up some things in order to deliver a movie that isn't six hours long, but I felt that leap was too big to take. And I found no entertainment in the fact that Charlie used Raymond's autism for personal gain. I don't see that as some kind of "he doesn't have a disability at all" kind of message one bit and actually find it somewhat offensive.

Second, I'm over the 'challenged person equals Oscar gold' roles. In my opinion, anyone can play someone to some extreme. We cheer for performances given by Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkey's and Leo DiCaprio in What's Eating Gilbert Grape because they are A-Typical roles but to me they are just window dressing in absence of a true character. No doubt what Raymond had was an extreme case of autism. If Hoffman really wanted to give an impressive performance, he should have played someone with a mild case of autism where it only displays itself in certain instances. To me, that would be a much harder role and much more deserving of the Oscar that he was given. I'll take Hoffman in Kramer Vs. Kramer any day of the week because I believe it's much harder to display true human emotion, or at least show some kind of restraint, than to hide behind the most extreme cases of a social anxiety. And while I'm on the subject, I'm also over beautiful people making themselves ugly to strike Oscar gold. That means you Charlize. It's roles like these that give us God awful movies like I Am Sam and Nell.

Rain Man felt like the Hollywood Machine at it's worst. It felt like maybe there was a good script that began about two brothers that never really connected and some Hollywood Executive came in and said, that's boring unless you make one of the brother's have some kind of terminal disease or some extreme disability. Instead, they should have just created a script that truly explored the reasons why siblings who share every waking hour when they're young can somehow become strangers over the years. To me that would have been interesting. But instead, I got a cop out. I got Rain Man.

9 comments:

brian said...

There was an arc in Cruise's character.

He was a prick in the beginning of the movie. He didn't even want to acknowledge that he had a brother. Over the course of two hours, his character became a little less self aborsbed.

First he used Rain Man for his selfish needs. Then he grew to love him.

It's not one of my favorite movies, but I would never say I hated it.

Of course, that's why I love ya. You ain't afraid to hate a great movie.

Ray said...

Well, Piper, I love ya because you're one of the few movie bloggers out there with a conscience. Who else would go to see a movie they hated three times in the theaters just to be sure??

As far as the movie is concerned, I think you're missing some key points.

First - the script called for that level of autism. Had Hoffmann played the role as a less-severe case, then many of the crucial scenes involving his autism would have made little sense.

Second - The script makes it clear that Cruise's character barely knew or remembered having a brother. They didn't, as you say, get along as kids but not as adults. While much of the plot is manipulative, I don't think this is part of it.

Third - as Brian said, Cruise did have an arc. His character is an egotistical, selfish jerk who discovers that he actually cares for this person and learns to stop manipulating people around him for his own gain. Sad to say that some people are truly like this in life.

While definitely a product of its time period, the film is well constructed and acted. Hoffmann deserves praise for his performance because he was able to project a wealth of character despite the limitations placed upon him. Overall I would classify this film as manipulative but fascinating. It's like the "E.T." of mental retardation.

www.therecshow.com

Piper said...

Ray,

Thanks. Not only did I see it three times, but I usually brought a date so I spent even more money.

My criticism of the movie is of the whole movie, script and all. Other than Raymond being able to count cards, I'm not really sure why his autism had to be so severe. And if the script called for his autism to be that severe, then I question the script.

And while I believe there was an arc with Cruise, it was a short one. It asked me to make too much of a leap. I didn't believe that such an asshole could make a leap like that in such a short time. So it's a criticism again of the script for not giving me enough scenes to help make that leap.

Jeremy Fuksa: Creative Generalist said...

I did not see it at the theater. I saw it at a high school post-graduation party and remember feeling weird that I was the only one not that into the movie. I did love that "Iko Iko" song though. I went out and bought the cassingle and it held pretty heavy rotation in my Audiovox car stereo for quite a while.

Anonymous said...

I hated it too. Not for the reason you state, but for my own deeply personal reasons. I don't know that it matters that we hate it for the same reasons; I think all that matters is that we both hate it and that fact brings us closer together. (did i use that semicolon correctly?)

Anonymous said...

How anyone could have an issue with this classic, is a mystery to me. My only suspicion is that you are overanalyzing it altogether. First, I think Cruise did a good job playing the bastard of character that he was cast to play. And Hoffman? Absolutely, an unparalleled performance! This film did an awesome (and unprecented) job of depicting the challenges (and gifts) of autism at every level. I thought it did a great job of pitting to completely contrasted characters and winning over the antagonist in the end. You should watch it again - without trying to analyze every word.

BeatleBangs1964 said...

Rain Man is a slur against people with autism. It carries just as much hurt and prejudice as any racist comment. Less than 10% of people with autism are prodigious savants, so it is ironic that savantism has become a stereotype.

That damn R*** M** has become a caricature of people with autism and it is just as offensive as minstrel shows were to blacks and slurs to any group that is being targeted. I am tired of people asking if people with autism are anything like that damn R*** M** when that is never the case.

BeatleBangs1964 said...

Rain Man is a slur against people with autism. It carries just as much hurt and prejudice as any racist comment. Less than 10% of people with autism are prodigious savants, so it is ironic that savantism has become a stereotype.

That damn R*** M** has become a caricature of people with autism and it is just as offensive as minstrel shows were to blacks and slurs to any group that is being targeted. I am tired of people asking if people with autism are anything like that damn R*** M** when that is never the case.

BeatleBangs1964 said...

I hate R*** M** with the heat of 1,000 suns. I hate that movie because the title character has become a stereotype for people with autism. Very few people with autism are savants and the very term R*** M** is just as offensive as the N word or any other slur you can think of.

I wish I had a R*** M** dart board!