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Rain Man Case

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I have chosen "Rain Man" for my first film paper. "Rain Man" is a 1988 film directed by Barry Levinson.

The Plot of the Film

The film is about a self-centered and uncaring automobile hustler, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who receives word that his father has died but all he has inherited is his father's prize roses to "remind him that perfection can be achieved" and an old car, a 1949 Buick Roadmaster. Discovering that the Babbitt's $3 million estate is bequeathed to an unidentified party, Charlie heads to his home town and finds that the beneficiary is Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic-savant older brother whose existence Charlie is unaware of.

Charlie "kidnaps" Raymond so as to ask for half the estate but is turned down, he then decides to attempt to gain custody of Raymond in order to get control of the money. During the "kidnapping" cross-country road trip, Charlie learns more about Raymond who adheres to strict routines but is a mental calculator with extraordinary abilities in counting and memorizing (such abilities help them win money Charlie needs in Las Vegas). Charles also realizes that the comforting figure from his childhood, "Rain Man" is actually Raymond. Gradually, Charlie emotionally matures and evolves through his association with Raymond. He is happy to have Raymond as his brother and finally decides not to fight for the inheritance or custody of Raymond. Raymond returns to Wallbrook and Charlie promises to visit him in two weeks.

The Role Psychology Plays in the Film

I would like to focus on Charlie Babbitt as his psychological changes over the films are quite drastic - from emotionally vacuous and frustration at first to compassion and understanding towards the end.

When Charlie was 16 and got good grades for his high school, he requested a victory drive in his father's 1949 Buick Roadmaster but his father refused. He then stole the keys and went out for a drive with his friends. They were pulled over as his father had called the police and said the car was stolen, not taken by his son. All his friends were almost immediately bailed out by their parents, but Charlie's father left him in jail for 2 days. Furious and hurt, Charlie left home and never spoke with his father again. With such childhood trauma, I believe that Charlie has encountered identity crisis in Stage 5: Identity vs. Confusion (Erik Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development). Leaving at 16, Charlie has only himself to rely upon. He fights/works for everything he feels he deserves in life by all means. He becomes selfish and cares for no one but himself and his business. He believes that this "smart workaholic" is Charlie but in fact, he finds no role model to look up to - he is not sure "who he is" and "what he is". Moreover, he also encounters difficulties in Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation. He denies his feelings of hurt and disappointment, covering them up with an aloof attitude. It makes him difficult to emotionally connect with anyone including his father, his girlfriend and Raymond. For example, he shows no emotion when he learns of his father's death, he never tells his girlfriend Susanna about his family matters, and he "kidnaps" Raymond so as to get the inheritance.

It is Raymond who opens up Charlie and helps him grow.

When they start the cross-country journey, Charlie has no idea about autism and he is very frustrated with Raymond's restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior and activities, such as unchanging menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner (e.g. apple juice, cheese balls, pancakes, fish sticks, green lime jello, etc.) and dressing ritual like the underwear bought in K-Mart. Charlie is angry when Raymond refuses to fly and go out in rainy days. Changes take place when Charlie recognizes Raymond's extraordinary abilities of "super recall" and finds that Raymond is the "Rain Man" who deeply cares about Charlie and is terribly upset



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