Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer | 1988 | 133 mins. | R

Released in December of 1988, Rain Man was a surprise hit with audiences and critics alike. Nominated for eight Oscars, Rain Man collected four including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director for Barry Levinson, and Best Actor in a leading role for Dustin Hoffman. Most importantly perhaps, the film spread awareness of autism, a largely misunderstood disorder that had never received much public attention. (Although, it should be said, the film also led to the major misconception that all autistics are high-functioning savants, which is definitely not the case.) Having watched the movie again after several years, I was reminded that Hoffman turned in one of the great performances of his career and Tom Cruise’s character epitomized the greed of the 1980’s.

Rain ManCharlie Babbitt (Cruise) a gray market Lamborghini dealer who loves the material things in life. When we meet him, his business is about to go bust thanks to a bad business deal, but he’s not too concerned. His wealthy, estranged father has just died, and Charlie expects to get the lion’s share of his dead dad’s $3 million estate. Naturally, Charlie is shocked to learn he has been largely cut out of his father’s will because of the resentment he harbored towards him. He gets his dad’s classic car and his prize-winning rose bushes but the money goes to an unnamed beneficiary.

Beyond angry, Charlie does a little digging. Following the money trail back to the Walbrook Institute outside Cincinnati, Charlie discovers he has an older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), a high-functioning autistic savant who’s been institutionalized since childhood. Wanting his share of the inheritance, Charlie kidnaps his brother and drives him across country in their dad’s classic Buick.

In many ways, the road trip is typical of other such adventures in films. On their way from Cincinnati to Los Angeles there is the obligatory trip to Las Vegas where Charlie learns Raymond can count cards—however, the important thing about this trip is watching how the two brother’s relationship evolves. Raymond actually doesn’t change. He remains an innocent, trapped in his own world of rigid schedules and certainties. In the beginning, Rain Man shows us just how much alike the two brothers are. Like Raymond, Charlie is unable to understand other people’s feelings. His relationship with his girlfriend, Susana (Valeria Golino), is strictly physical for him and Raymond is a ticket to his half of the inheritance.  We watch Charlie slowly soften as he begins to let himself try to understand his brother. At the end, Charlie is still a yuppie but he’s also a guy who finally has someone in this world he cares about, as much as himself.

Rain Main isn’t a reference quality transfer, but it’s never looked as good as it does here. Presented on 1080p, there are a few instances of dirt but it’s not particularly distracting. Colors are natural and bright when appropriate. The Las Vegas scenes have a crisp glow, while the desert scenes showcase a dusty quality. Black levels are strong and deep. The picture is occasionally soft, but it doesn’t take away from the film.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound mix effectively captures the simple sonic presence. Dialogue is always discernable, and Raymond’s screaming tantrums are handled very well. Hans Zimmer’s musical score is also most impressive here – the music is deep and full with thumping bass that spreads to the lefts and rights. The Las Vegas scenes make nice use of the surround channels.

We get the following special features:

Audio Commentaries: We get three commentary tracks, one from director Barry Levinson, one with writer Barry Morrow, and the last featuring writer Ronald Bass. Levinson’s track is the most complete, while the writers provide script development details.

The Journey of Rain Man (SD, 22:07): A great making-of documentary, consisting largely of talking head interviews from Levinson and the film’s writers.

Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism (SD, 20:13): An educational featurette, which includes interviews with some of the real life “Rain Men” who inspired the film.

Deleted Scene (SD, 2:13): A single deleted scene—Raymond gets in trouble in a convenience store.

Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:13)

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