Another winning home video release from MVD Entertainment, Academy Award Winning Rain Main makes its debut on 4K UHD with an approved transfer by Barry Levinson.
When I was a kid Rain Man was one of the first Best Picture winners that I loved. The film was a weirdly dark comedy in the eyes of a 10-year-old. The story of two brothers never connected to me on an emotional level, it was more of an entertaining one. I found Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise banter – it’s what I thought it was when I was a kid – hilarious. So much my group of friends began to quote it ad nauseum. “K-Mart Cincinnati”, “10 minutes of Whoppner”, and “Hot Water Burn Baby!” were all quotes we’d throw out.
I never got the heartbreak. I never got the emotional unpinning of the film. The connective tissue showed two broken souls kept away from each other by an abusive father. I didn’t get these things until I was much older. In fact, it wasn’t until maybe the first DVD edition of the film that I purchased in my late twenties did I understand just how tragic everything was.
The story of Charlie Babbit (Cruise) a fast-talking con man of a car salesman finds out that his recently deceased father left him nothing of his millions of dollars – excluding “prize-winning roses” and the Buick convertible. The money has been left to a brother he never knew he had. Raymond Babbit (Hoffman) has been in a long-term care facility for almost three decades being diagnosed as a high functioning Autistic. Charlie seeing an opportunity like any good (re bad) opportunist, takes his brother with him holding him essentially hostage. As they make their way across the country Charlie begins to realize that maybe there is more to life than money.
Rain Man is one of the rare “medical diagnosis” films that never feels like it’s a “medical diagnosis” film. The script by Barry Morrow and Ronald Bass takes cliché and turns them inside out with a bit of wit and complexity. Though it is only the blueprint. It’s the dance between Hoffman and Cruise that makes the film soar.
Many accused Hoffman’s performance of being a series of tricks and bits, which isn’t the case, and a bit of critical tomfoolery. Hoffman’s work here is as distinguished as any of his career. There’s an openness to his performance that allows you into the closed-off world of Raymond Babbit. The performance isn’t about change or an arc, but rather keeping everything honest, which Hoffman does a spectacular job of.
The key of the entire film is Tom Cruise. The megastar still in the infancy of his career at the time he made the film, is as good as he was in the era. There’s a wild rough unhinged quality to his performance. He smokes, he’s a prick to his girlfriend and uses very derogatory terms to describe his brother. It makes Charlie, and by default, Tom Cruise humane in a way that he can be now. The way that Charlie begins to understand the depth of the issues he’s gotten himself into and grows from it is the magic of early-era Tom Cruise. Few if anyone but Cruise could have taken on a role that could have been insufferable at its best and intolerable at its worse. In Cruise’s hands is one of the actor’s finest moments.
All of this is put together by director Barry Levinson’s astute direction. Under his and cinematographer John Seale’s visual guidance this film that turns into the classic Road Movie across America never feels like a visual cliché, even three decades later. Levinson understands the humanity of the piece and at its core is a story of two brothers learning to communicate when one is unable to do so. That simple concept in the director’s hands becomes at moments a Hope and Crosby road picture and at others a film about brotherly love and at others a harrowing look at the trauma a father induced onto his children, even after the grave.
More than the jokes that have embedded themselves into pop culture about the film. Rain Man is still a masterfully beautiful film filled with more complexity and emotional resonance than one would expect.
This new restoration (a 2023 4K high definition 16-bit scan of the original camera negative overseen by MVD) approved by Barry Levinson and presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in HDR / DolbyVision is a beautiful presentation of the film. Having seen the film multiple times including theatrically, the source and work done by Levinson and MGM retains the look and film of the theatrical presentation. The handsome image’s subdue color palette is accurate to the theatrical coloring. The standout of the transfer is the grain structure and contrast levels. Each is an exemplary example of what UHD properly done can afford to the visual experience.
They include the following;
- Audio Commentary by Director Barry Levinson
- Audio Commentary by Writer Barry Morrow
- Audio Commentary by Writer Ronald Bass
- The Journey of Rain Man featurette
- Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism featurette
- Deleted Scene
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Note: Only the Audio Commentaries appear on the 4K UHD disc. The rest of the special features appear on the Blu-Ray, along with the Commentary Tracks.
The first Audio Commentary by Director Barry Levinson is an archival one but is no less worthy because of it. Levinson opens with his opening shots and how they tie to the themes of possessions. Some of the other details include how the opening song ties to the musical thematics of the score by Hans Zimmer – and the lack of strings in both; how he gotten involved with the project – offering some rewriting suggestions; why they chose the specific car that Charlie inherits; the casting of Valeria Golino – and why she was cast; how he built the scenes in the medal institution – casting extras from real life; the casting of Gerald R Molen – who was the production manager on the film; the origins of the “Who’s on First”; the sound design of the film – how it was subjective by design and how it was placed into the score as well; the structure of the film and how it related to the structure in Raymond’s world; how the humor that was developed from research and interviews with families that have a child or family member that has Autism; how they shot the film with intention – especially with anything involving Raymond and Charlie; that leads to the accomplished work of John Seale; how they justified a road trip through Raymond’s diagnosis; and much more. The Track has a wealth of information but there is a certain amount of silence during the run time, but the information is worth the time.
The second Audio Commentary by Writer Barry Morrow is another archival track. Morrow opens with the origins of the story and a real-life person named “Bill” which was turned into a film starring Mickey Roney and eventually how he met his own “Rain Man” and that turned into the script. Some of the other details include where he first heard the term “Autistic Savant”; the changes that were made from his original script; the casting of Valeria Golino; the origins and development of the script post-Bill release and how he came about the story – including making the two main characters brothers; how the title came to be Rain Man; the development of the second act/middle section of the film – and how much it had changed through the various drafts; pitching the story idea – and the wild up and downs of going through that process; how Dustin Hoffman got involved – the other casting what-if’s; a detailed account of the first meeting that he had with Dustin Hoffman; the various directors that got involved with the project before Levinson got involved; and much more. Morrow’s track is wall-to-wall conversational, personal, and informative track.
The final Audio Commentary by Writer Ronald Bass begins with how he got involved with the production beginning with having the Chickenpox and the reasons why he was brought in. Some of the other details include how legendary super-agent (at the time) Michael Ovitz personally got involved with making the schedule work; working with both Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman; the actual work that was done after the conversations with Hoffman, Cruise, and the director at the time – and what was done; the various directors on the project – the rewrites that occur, and the outright legend of a director; a great moment with said legendary director suggested that made the film that we see; the considerations that they took to ensure that the families and friends who had autistic family member films; the dropping out of the legendary filmmaker and hiring of another legendary director; that process with that director – which led to his firing; his rehiring with the eventual hiring of Barry Levinson; the writer’s strike that occurred in 1988; the eventual production – the rewriting during the production with both Levinson and Morrow; and much more. Bass is an engaging speaker that gives a great detailed behind-the-scenes commentary track on the development and writing of this Academy Award Winning script.
The Journey of Rain Man featurette (22:07) – this archival featurette covers all the bases on the development, production, release, awards, and legacy of this special film. Comments by Barry Levinson, producer Mark Johnson, production manager Gerald Molden, screenwriter Barry Morrow, screenwriter Ronald Bass, social worker and consultant Diane Bass, associate producer Gail Mutrux, actor Valeria Golino, and composer Hans Zimmer.
Lifting the Fog: A Look at the Mysteries of Autism featurette (20:13) – looks at the various diagnosis and the people that have them from what is real and what is fiction. There is an understanding and consideration the featurette takes with not only discussing this topic with the inclusion of not only specialists in the diagnosis and also people that live with these diagnoses. Comments by Dr. Ruth Sullivan, Dr. Arnold Rosen, screenwriter Barry Morrow, Dr. Darold Treffert, and others.
Deleted Scene (2:10)
Original Theatrical Trailer (2:13)
The Final Thought
Rain Man is no less powerful than when it was initially released. MVD Entertainment has done justice to the film by giving it a beautiful 4K UHD and extras. Highest Possible Recommendations!!!