I know that Barry Levinson’s Rain Man (1988) is very well liked — even loved — in some quarters, and that it carted off a load of Oscars (for what that’s worth), and I concede that it’s well made, but I have to admit I’ve never much cared for it. Too much of Tom Cruise with his feathered blow-dry hair? Too manipulative? Too Barry Levinson? Maybe all of those things do it. Watching it again for this screening didn’t change much, though I did watch the whole thing in one sitting, which was not a given going in. In addition to my other issues with the film, it’s longer than it needs to be. There are scenes that could be removed to no real loss. Plus, the progress of Charlie’s (Cruise) cross-country drive with his newly acquired autistic savant older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), is poorly presented.
In the plus column, Cruise is at his best playing a mercenary louse — after all, it’s the three million his brother inherited from their father he’s interested in — and that’s what he’s doing here. The later scenes where he’s kind of grown a heart are less effective, but at least they’re not too gooey. Hoffman is mostly restrained as Raymond, though a couple of times a conversation from Tropic Thunder (2008) did come to mind. The most interesting thing I noticed this round — and I’m guessing it was in the script and not a directorial inspiration — is that before we meet Raymond, Charlie evidences speech patterns that are not unlike those of his brother. The inflections are different, but the reliance on certain words and the tendency to say things twice are there. I still can’t say I’m wild about the film and chances are I’ll never watch it again, but I will give some extra points over this.
The Hendersonville Film Society will show Rain Man Sunday, Aug. 31, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.