Actor PerformanceTerm Paper

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Film Analysis: Rain Man

Director Barry Levinson brought audiences the acclaimed motion picture Rain Man (1988), starring Tom Cruise as Charlie Babbitt, the Ferrari focused wheeler-dealer whose life revolves around the subconscious symbolisms of his estranged relationship with his wealthy father who has recently died. Babbitt, who lives in California, is forced to face the estrangement that has kept him separated from his father when his father dies, and Charlie has to travel to his home town to be present for the settlement of the estate. Much not much to Charlie's surprise, but much to his dismay, his father has left his estate to a local hospital. Charlie inherited the yellow classic automobile that was a bad memory for him because his father never trusted him to drive the car. As Charlie discovers, the hospital is where his older brother, Raymond, played by Dustin Hoffman, lives. Raymond and Charlie have not been together since childhood, when Raymond was sent away because he suffered from autism and was a potential risk to Charlie, who was a toddler. Discovering he has an older brother who has inherited their father's wealth causes Charlie to act out of desperation, and he takes his brother out of the school with the intent of taking him back to California where he will become his brother's guardian and have access to his father's fortune. What happens is that which makes this film such a favorite with the public. Charlie bonds with Raymond, and Raymond is the touchstone that Charlie needs to resolve his estrangement with his past and his father. Through his relationship with Raymond, Charlie connects to a sense of family and love that he has not previously known.

Dustin Hoffman, as Raymond Babbitt, aka Rain Man, is autistic, and Hoffman creates the sense realism for the viewer to connect with the character by his ability to master the traits exhibited by autistics. Rain Man's gait when he walks, his inability to deal with stress, which causes him to react with a building anxiety that culminates in deafening screams are reflective of Hoffman's own acting accomplishment. Hoffman is able to get into character, to absorb the personality of an autistic person, such that he is able to convey those personality traits to the audience in a convincing way. At the time, Hoffman remains in acting control of the character so that it is balanced for the audience with enough warmness, perhaps more so than real autistics might display. He still injects the character with enough easy sense of humility to endear the character to the audiences.

The only thing that Hoffman might be criticized about is the empty stare that he often uses. If we study the true autistic, we would see that it is perhaps the mystery of the disease. There is no emptiness to their gaze, but more a veil. Hoffman does not quite capture the veil vs. The emptiness of the gaze, but he more than compensates for it with his physical movements. Hoffman perfectly captured the tip-toeing walk that manifests itself with the stretched and strained tendons of the heels and give way to that appearance of an unsteady gait. He captures, too, the obsessive compulsive disordered thinking associated with the disease, and the autistic's need for structured repetition.

Hoffman carries Raymond's dialogue with exactness that is characteristic of autistics, and when the stress becomes too much, his voice carries the warning of the explosion that will follow. Raymond is sensitive to sounds, as is characteristic of autistics, and while he has the emotional stability of a child, he demonstrates the mathematical genius of autistics that, if could be bridled, would be the equivalent of Hawkings or Einstein. Unfortunately, it cannot be bridled, except as his brother, Charlie manages to do it in the film.

Charlie, unable to adjust to the fact that there is nothing outwardly wrong with Raymond, stops along their journey from the east coast to the west coast so that a physician can examine Raymond. Charlie is looking for affirmation of his emphatic contention that Raymond can be normal. The doctor, instead, reveals for Charlie the unlimited capacity of Raymond's obsession with numbers, the genius of it, but explains, gently, that there is no way to harness the power of Raymond's thinking. The physician explains it is the mystery of autism.

Throughout the film Cruise and Hoffman display a connectivity that allows their characters to work in a near perfect timing. Cruise, as the responsible younger brother whose motives are less than loving in the beginning, finds that even though Raymond suffers from autism, there is a sense of connection to him. When Raymond recalls Charlie the bathtub scene that was the determining factor in sending Raymond away so that he could no longer pose a threat to Charlie's well being, it helps Charlie to understand his father and the circumstances of that existed between them. It does not make it less easy for Charlie to find his father without fault; it only explains that his father was able to love Raymond deeply and perhaps blamed Charlie when Raymond was sent away. Charlie discovers that his father visited Raymond at the home like clockwork, and even let Raymond drive the precious classic car that he would not let Charlie drive. It makes sense, then, when Charlie connects the car to his father's feelings and the fact that his father, knowing Charlie would discover Raymond, leaves Charlie the car.

The subtext, which is not spoken between the characters but nonetheless conveyed to the audience, is extensive and tangential to the interaction between Charlie and Raymond, Raymond and Charlie's girlfriend, and even the Dr. Bruner (played by Gerald R. Molen). Hoffman's character seems to have a good sense of timing with the character of each of his co-stars. Some of the most memorable scenes in the film are those where the chemistry and timing between Charlie and Raymond is so well played out by the actors that become indelibly inscribed on the viewer's imagination. For instance, when Charlie and Raymond first appear in the Las Vegas casino in well tailored suits, and when Raymond is obsessing over the numbers at the casino table. Then there is the moment when Raymond lapses into his autism and loses money and Charlie quickly understands it is time to quit.

Later, when Charlie and Raymond are in the casino lounge, a hooker approaches Raymond and the audience is reminded again that autism is an inside disease and not one that can be readily ascertained from the outside. For the viewer, it is easy to empathize with Hoffman's character, and there is hope that Raymond will find the normalcy of human contact less offensive when it is with a beautiful woman. When Charlie's girlfriend tries to connect with that part of Charlie which is not autistic, she, like the audience, realizes that the kiss of a beautiful woman will not break the spell over the autistic man. Raymond, we realize at that moment, is indeed lost to the world around him.

Still the connection between the Charlie and Raymond is played out, with Cruise demonstrating a tenacious determination to hang onto his brother and to fit Raymond into the squares and circles of his own life. Without the constant change of scenery and without the goal of reaching the west coast, Charlie is forced to accept that Raymond is not normal, and that Charlie's world is not one in which Raymond can co-exist without problems. Cruise is deeply into the character of Charlie by the time he makes his last stand to try to hold on to the sense of family he has gained because of Raymond. Charlie's efforts to hold on to Raymond and to continue forcing Raymond come to an end, brought about… [END OF PREVIEW]

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