|Rain Man (Special Edition)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 03 February 2004|
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Charlie learns patience and humanity in dealing with Raymond, which is handled in relatively low-key fashion. The film tries hard to avoid being overly sentimental and doesn’t try to suggest that Charlie can affect Raymond as profoundly as Raymond affects him – for instance, even after all their time together, when Charlie attempts to bestow a brotherly hug, Raymond freaks out (many autistic people cannot bear to be touched). Hoffman is very good at conveying Raymond’s state of being trapped in his own head, unable to process many things that are happening around him and taking refuge in repetition, while Cruise is very strong as a man who goes from hostile and petulant to genuinely caring. Valeria Golino is graceful and warm as Charlie’s good-hearted girlfriend.
All of this, however, doesn’t make up for the fact that the first half of the film is really slow going. Charlie has a consistent pathology to him, which makes him relatively credible and consistent, but this doesn’t translate to interesting. As for Raymond, while he elicits compassion, anyone who has a mentally impaired family member and/or has had real-life dealings with someone in Raymond’s muted state can attest to the fact that the experience can be many things, but “entertaining” is seldom one of them. On one of the audio commentary tracks, writer Ron Bass explicitly says that the creative thinking was that Hoffman is so endearing that the audience would be engrossed by him no matter what – this review is proof that this is not universally true. We want Charlie to stop agitating Raymond – after the first dozen times during which Charlie sees that any sort of change upsets Raymond greatly, we see that Charlie is annoyed by Raymond’s fits yet persists in provoking him, we start to wonder if perhaps Charlie is also impaired in some way – but this is not fascinating, merely discomfiting. When Charlie finally does start to wise up and act like an adult, we feel relief and eventually start to root for him a little, but he’s been such a jerk for so long that actual empathy never quite comes into play.
The print for the DVD version of “Rain Man” is not as clean as it could be – there are definite scratches and marks jumping around the frames in Chapter 1. It cleans up relatively well thereafter. The colors are pretty good, with some really lovely hues in a Chapter 14 sequence that takes us through the open road at late afternoon and twilight. Hans Zimmer’s Oscar-winning score is quite lovely, with drums and haunting, sparse piano themes. The sound in the film is designed to indicate spatial relationships – there are significant volume drops when a character who is speaking leaves the room, for instance – which is a bit awkward on a non-discrete mix for DVD. The technique is intentional and brings a sense of verisimilitude to the physical whereabouts of the characters in relation to one another, but it also requires the viewer to play volume jockey in order to catch all the dialogue. Chapter 12 has some appealing bluesy source music and in Chapter 13, there’s a good effect as Raymond’s scream of panic blends with the scraping of airport machinery.
Special features include a deleted scene at a drugstore, showing us how Raymond copes (or rather, does not cope) on his own. There are three audio commentary tracks: one with director Levinson, one with writer Bass and the third with other writer Barry Morrow, who crafted the original story. Morrow reminisces about the friend who inspired him to create the character of Raymond, Bass has good anecdotes about the creative process and Levinson has intriguing insights about the musical score. The soundtrack comes up full volume on the sometimes lengthy gaps between comments.
“Rain Man” is a much-honored and much-loved film. Many people have found it deeply moving, and you may feel the same way. Then again, you may feel as though you are spending a fair amount of time with two people whose company you don’t enjoy.