81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Rain Man

October 19th, 2009 · No Comments · 1988, Color, Drama, Dustin Hoffman, F-Word, Mid-Point, Original Screenplay, Plot Point I, Plot Point II, Rain Man, Screenplay Structure, Sex, Swearing, Tom Cruise, United Artists

Rain Man I almost didn’t get to post my blog this evening. My MacBook Pro died and the Apple geniuses had no openings for me until tomorrow morning. Good thing my wife is using my old iBook G4.

Rain Man has always been one of my favorite movies. Talking like Raymond Babbitt is something my wife and I do now and then for a laugh.

I haven’t analyzed the structure of a movie in a while. So I figured this one would be a good one to take a look at.

Screenplay Structure – Rain Man

Act I
Inciting Incident: At the 7:12 minute mark, Lenny calls Charlie Babbitt on the car phone to tell him Charlie’s father, Sanford Babbitt, has died. This, literally, causes Charlie to change direction. He spins a U-turn and heads back the way he came.

A few minutes later, Charlie discovers at the reading of his father’s will that he inherits nothing but an antique car and prize rose bushes. Everything else – an estate valued at $3 million – goes into a trust to be overseen by an unnamed trustee.

Why do I think the death of Charlie’s father is the Inciting Incident and not the reading of the will? Because if Charlie’s father hadn’t died, there would be no reading of the will. There would be no search for the trustee. The death of Sanford Babbitt is the event that causes the rest of the movie to exist.

The next event to watch for is Plot Point I, which I can see will be coming up very soon – much sooner than normal, in fact.

Plot Point I: At the 20:00 minute mark Charlie asks the doctor, “Who is this guy?” The doctor replies: “Raymond is your brother.” Charlie discovering he has a brother spins the movie in a new direction. The audience wonders “What will happen next?” and “What will Charlie do now?”

(An interesting tidbit for you. At 23:47, Vern, an orderly in the institution where Raymond lives, tells Ray, “It’s okay, Ray. It’s okay. C’mon. My main man.” In the last Best Picture Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman appeared in – Kramer vs. Kramer – the head of the ad agency were Ted Kramer worked called Ted his “main man.”)

Charlie kidnaps Raymond to take him to L.A. The plan is to wrestle the inheritance money away from Raymond, who is the trustee named in Sanford Babbitt’s will.

Raymond is afraid to fly, however. So a three-hour flight to L.A. becomes a three-day drive in the Buick Sanford Babbitt left Charlie.

Act II
The next turning point to watch for is the Mid Point of the film which should appear between 55 and 65 minutes into this two-hour movie. But because Plot Point I occurred about 10 minute earlier than usual the Mid Point may happen earlier, too.

“You don’t have to go to Cincinnati to get a pair of underwear at K-Mart,” a frustrated Charlie tells Raymond as they tool down a back road in the middle of nowhere.

It’s now 58 minutes into the movie. I don’t think I’ve seen the Mid Point turning point yet.

Mid Point: At 72 minutes and 53 seconds into the movie Charlie and Raymond are in another flea bag motel in the middle of nowhere. Raymond is brushing his teeth. Charlie says something to him and Raymond says something about “rain man,” a phrase Charlie used to describe what he thought was an imaginary friend that he has as a very young boy. “You? You’re the rain man?” Charlie asks Raymond. Raymond gets a photo of himself and a young Charlie and shows it to Charlie.

I believe this is the Mid Point – even though it happens much later than usual – because it is an emotional turning point. For the first time, Charlie connects Raymond to his own childhood. A few seconds after this realization, Charlie turns on the hot water in the bathtub. Raymond freaks out. “Hot water burn baby! Hot water burn baby!”

“That’s why they put you away,” Charlie says. “They thought you would hurt me.”

This is an emotional scene, and a major turning point for Charlie. For the first time, he sees Raymond as more than a freak of nature. He sees him as his long-lost, barely remembered brother.

Of course, now the audience is asking, “What happens next? Will this change their relationship? Will it change Charlie?”

The next major turning point to watch for is Plot Point II, which should occur between 85 and 95 minutes into the film.

Charlie and Raymond are sitting in a diner. Raymond is playing with the jukebox at the table. A song comes on. He tells Charlie which number the song is on the machine. Charlie begins to quiz him, saying the name of songs. Raymond tells him which number the song is on the machine. He’s right every time. A smile slowly begins to appear on Charlie’s face.

Plot Point II: At 85:26 into the movie, Charlie quizzes Raymond using playing cards. He drops cards on trunk of his car. He then asks Raymond, “Okay, Ray. What cards do I have left?” Raymond tells him. “You are beautiful, man.” They get in the Buick and peel away. They’re heading to Vegas so that Raymond can count cards.

This is a major turning point. Charlie’s world splits wide open. Anything is possible. He’s going to use Raymond to count cards and make a bundle of money, cash that can be used to pay off the $80,000 debt he owes people in the failed car deal that started the movie.

“Rain man, let’s play some cards,” Charlie tells his brother at 89:29 into the movie.

Act III
Charlie teaches Raymond how to dance. They get thrown out of Vegas for counting cards. The psychiatrist who’s taken care of Raymond for many years offers Charlie a check for $250,000 to walk away from Raymond. Charlie refuses. He even makes a joke with Raymond in a pancake restaurant. Charlie realizes he’s a changed man.

The Cast
Dustin Hoffman (1937- )………………….Raymond Babbitt
Tom Cruise (1962- )………………………..Charlie Babbitt
Valeria Golino (1966- )…………………….Susanna
Gerald R. Molen (1935- )………………….Dr. Bruner
Jack Murdock (1922-2001)……………….John Mooney
Michael D. Roberts (1947- )………………Vern
Ralph Seymour (?-?)…………………………Lenny
Lucinda Jenney (1954- )……………………Iris
Bonnie Hunt (1961- )……………………….Sally Dibbs

Directed By
Barry Levinson (1942- )

Writing Credits
Barry Morrow, 1948- (story)
Ronald Bass, 1942- (screenplay) and
Barry Morrow, 1948- (screenplay)

Rain Man was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Dustin Hoffman), Best Director (Barry Levinson), Best Picture, and Best Writing, Original Screenplay
(Ronald Bass and Barry Morrow).

A terrific movie, Rain Man is in my Top 20 for sure. And maybe in my Top 15. It’s one of the few original screenplays winning a Best-Picture Oscar, which it “definitely” deserved.

Dustin Hoffman is an amazing actor. His Raymond Babbitt reminds me a bit of Ratso Rizzo, though.

Incidentally, Rain Man is Dustin’s third Oscar-winning movie (Midnight Cowboy, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Rain Man). He’s one of the few actors in Hollywood to appear in three Best-Picture Oscar-winning movies. Dustin Hoffman is a guy I’d love to meet. I seriously doubt he’s ever going to visit Grand Rapids, though. So that’s not likely to happen. What would I say to him, anyway? He’s had people tell him he’s a great actor all his life. What possible difference would it make to him if I say it?

Hey, at the very end of the movie, as the credits roll, black and white photographs are shown. “Are those the pictures Raymond took?” my wife asks. (Raymond carried a camera and took pictures in the movie.) I hadn’t thought of that before. They probably are. And that makes the movie that much more clever.

Okay. Rain Man is in my Top 10.

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