The immense commercial success of the Oscar-winning drama, "Rain Man," could also be attributed to its ideological message about mainstream family values. In this case, the rediscovery of love between two brothers: one, an autistic savant (Dustin Hoffman), the other, a young hustler (Tom Cruise), and a fast-talking car salesman.
At first, Charlie Babbitt wants to rob his older brother Raymond of the inheritance that their father has left, an estate worth 3 million, left in trust to Raymond. To that extent, Charlie kidnaps him from an institution. However, gradually he gets to know his brother, of whose existence he has been completely ignorant, and both realize that they not only love but also need each other.
Though different in style (a comedy) and genre (a road movie), “Rain Man” endorses similar values as Fatal Attraction, which was also in the run for Best Picture: a desire to uphold stability and the unity of the nuclear family.
“Rain Man” also serves as a testament to the new kind of films made in the New Hollywood. Packaged by a powerful agency, CAA (then at its prime) and dominated by stars (Dustin Hoffman, left, and Tom Cruise, right), its message was in tune with the neo-conservative times: the importance of brotherly love and the nuclear family.
On the surface, Dustin Hoffman's first Best Actor Oscar, for “Kramer Vs Kramer “ (1979), and his second Oscar, for Rain Man, have nothing in common but high-caliber acting, though some critics found his 1988 turn to be gimmicky—no more than a stunt. However, thematically, both films celebrate the sanctity of the America family.
Blending conventions of the comedy-drama with those of the road film, “Rain Man” propagated mainstream family values of the 1980s: the predominance of kinship instincts and blood ties against all odds, and the importance of protecting the unity of the nuclear family.
The large public embraced the film even before it was nominated for eight awards, winning four major ones: Best Picture, actor (Hoffman), director (Barry Levinson), and original screenplay (Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow, based on a story by Morrow).
Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman)
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise)
Susanna (Valeria Golino)
Dr. Bruner (Jerry Molen)
John Mooney (Jack Murdock)
Vern (Michael Roberts)
Lenny (Ralph Seymour)
Iris (Lucinda Jenny)
Sally Dibbs (Bonnie Hunt)
Running time: 128 Minutes