Fifteen years after it swept the 1989 Academy Awards show with Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman in his first win since 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer), MGM has finally released a Special Edition of Rain Man.
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a self-centered dealer of exotic cars. He imports high-end sports cars into the states and sells them to the highest bidder. Within the first 10 minutes, we learn that he is not above bribing the EP… for the cars to pass emissions, that he treats his girlfriend poorly, and that his father has just passed away. As he goes to the reading of the will, hoping for a big payday, his father leaves him only a car. Charlie is furious to learn that more than $3 million in a trust account has gone to an anonymous person. Turns out the anonymous person is an institutionalized autistic savant named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman).
Since Raymond is a voluntary patient, Charlie organizes his discharge (for his own nefarious reasons) and the two set off on a journey to Los Angeles. Along the way, the cold and calloused Charlie warms up to Raymond, even as the autistic man shows more and more difficulty in living life outside of the controlled environment of the institution. So it’s basically a road movie that tracks the change in character of Charlie from a money-hungry bastard to a caring individual. In the end, Charlie becomes less concerned with the potential money he can get from Raymond and more on the health and safety of Raymond himself. It’s a satisfying arc for Charlie. The film is widely credited as an insight into a condition (autism) that previous to 1988 wasn’t very well understood by the masses. The writing is strong, the directing excellent, and the acting top tier.
The presentation is in 1.85:1. Fantastic print for this transfer, some of MGM’s best work. Since the film has lots of exterior shots on stark landscapes, it’s easy to test for common problems with DVDs. The colors are well reproduced with no blurring or bleeding of color. The sharpness of the image is consistent throughout and the skin tones and black level are well set.
The mix here is a solid 5.1 presentation. The opening sequence gives the surround speakers some work with a remake of the classic “Iko Iko” Cajun-influenced song. Dialogue is appropriate to the center but there is not a lot of dynamic expansiveness in most of the film. Some of the road sequences open up with wind and birds and the casino sequence really uses the surround speakers and the bass to full effect – it really feels like you are in the midst of a loud, busy casino.
The “Special Edition” part of this release mainly refers to the great new transfer. As far as extras go, it’s pretty standard. As far as deleted scenes go, there is a whopping one deleted scene where Raymond gets lost in a store and gets run out of the store by the shopkeeper. There is also a photo gallery of stills (about 40) and behind the scenes shots.
The best of the extras however are three separate commentaries by Director Barry Levinson, Screenwriter Ron Bass, and Screenwriter Barry Morrow. Levinson’s is the most informative of the three and probably the only one worth listening to.
There is also the original featurette for the film made for HBO. Since it was made in 1988, it’s kind of interesting to see actually how little changes there have been in putting together these packages of promo bits about the film. Finally, the original theatrical trailer is included.
Rain Man is truly a great and unique film that honestly deserved a better package for a “Special Edition” than it received – I mean ONE deleted scene? But given that a “Ultimate Edition” is likely not in the cards – this is definitely worth picking up if you like excellent acting, great direction and a wonderful story.
Special Features List
- Three audio commentaries by director Barry Levinson, screenwriter Ronald Bass, and screenwriter Barry Morrow
- Original featurette
- Deleted scene