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- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Oscar Review: Rain Man (1988)

Rain Man is a classic. Winning 4 Academy Awards for Picture, Directing (Barry Levinson), Acting (Dustin Hoffman), and Original Screenplay, this film ranks up there as one of the most touching stories of transformation and personal growth.

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a selfish, high-end car dealer with hopes of making it big. While on his way to a romantic vacation with his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino), Charlie gets a call that his wealthy, estranged father has died. After the funeral, Charlie sits down with the lawyer for the reading of the will and finds that all he is left is the car he once took without permission as a teenager and his father's prize rose bushes while the balance of the family fortune is left in trust for an unnamed trustee.

Charlie soon finds that he has a brother (Hoffman) he never knew about who is now living in an institution for people with mental disabilities. In an attempt to get what he feels is rightly his, Charlie kidnaps Raymond and they embark on a cross-country roadtrip that will change their lives forever.

Confused, frustrated and in need of someone to take the brunt of his anger, Charlie grows more and more upset with his autistic savant brother for being himself. Charlie is the one who took Raymond out of is normal life and he, in turn, treats Raymond as the one who is the inconvenience.

One night on the road, Raymond reacts to the hot bath that Charlie is drawing which brings them both back to a time when they were just children and the Rain Man came to save young Charlie from getting burned. In that moment, Raymond is no longer the source of his inheritance, he has become Charlie's brother.

As they make their way back to L.A., the brothers stop in Las Vegas to take advantage of Raymond's unique abilities, making all the money that soon to be bankrupt Charlie needs to stay afloat. Upon arriving home, Charlie has grown to love his older brother and wants Raymond to live with him, not for the money, but to regain the relationship that they had been denied. All this leads to a battle between the hospital that knows what's best for Raymond and the brother that loves him.
Rain Man is one of those films that never grows old. Sure the 80's music and wardrobe have certainly gone out of style, but the story at the heart of this movie is one we can all learn from. It's about looking past the outward appearances and into the real person inside. It's about getting into your own heart and transforming yourself into the person you really are.

Hoffman and Cruise have a dynamic in this film that has been unmatched since. Often imitated but only perfected in his portrayal of Raymond, Dustin Hoffman proves himself to be one of film's greatest actors.

Maybe Raymond grows in his love for Charlie and begins to break free from his autism. Maybe through Charlie's transformation we, too, begin to look beyond our own fears, prejudices, and selfishness and allow ourselves to be taken in by this wonderful relationship.

It's funny. It's heart warming. Rain Man is just plain good.