Category Archives: IMDB 250

Not New Review – Jurassic Park (1993)

Back in 1993, this little movie called Jurassic Park roared into theaters. What Steven Spielberg did with a shark 20 years earlier, he did again here with dinosaurs. I can’t recall whether I saw this film in theaters or not. I was only 10, so I doubt it, but I definitely remember watching it at home on VHS. This movie was right up my alley, I’m not only a geek over movies. I also really love science and although the science here is a bit of a stretch, I was only 10 and didn’t know better yet, so I ate it up. I could just imagine this actually happening in a few years time like the filmmakers were revealing this new scientific technique to the world and the archaeologists and biologists were watching saying, “why didn’t we think of that?”

jurassicpark6

Adapted from a Michael Crichton novel of the same name, Jurassic Park was a great success both critically and commercially. It was the highest grossing film of 1993 bringing in nearly $1 billion dollars worldwide. That number was unheard of in 1993. Not until Titanic floated along in 1997 did anyone even come close to that number. It won 3 Oscars for its visual and sound effects and is currently sitting at an 8.1 of 10 on IMDb which places it as the 203rd best film of all time according to their top 250. Continue reading Not New Review – Jurassic Park (1993)

If You Liked… Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Who doesn’t like Shawshank Redemption? This is always my go to answer when someone asks me for my favorite movie. I love it because it blends a gritty realism with an ethereal storytelling and a epic twist ending. If you have not seen it, shame on you. It used to be on TBS at least twice a week, but you need to buy it because once you watch it, you will have a new favorite as well. Just in case you haven’t seen it, I will try not to spoil the ending, but here is a quick summary. Click here if you’ve already seen the film and just want to see my recommendations.

shawshank1

The Shawshank Redemption (directed by Frank Darabont of The Walking Dead fame) is one of those movies whose estimation has only grown with time. It wasn’t a box office hit in 1994, but it was a critical success and received 7 Academy Award nominations but LOST in every category, being beat out for best picture by Forrest Gump. However, in 2008 (14 years after its original release) it took over the #1 slot as greatest film on the IMDb’s Top 250 from The Godfather and it still holds that place to this day.

Ellis ‘Red’ Redding (Morgan Freeman) is our co-pilot and narrator for our long stay in Shawshank State Penitentiary. He admits that he belongs there for murder, calling himself the only guilty man in Shawshank. The year is 1947 and our central character is banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who has been convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. We see him entering Shawshank to begin serving his two consecutive life sentences. The movie is based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Through the story, we experience a 20 year friendship between these two men.

Shawshank2

You’d be hard pressed to find a more genuine ode to male bonding than this drama spanning two decades from 1946 to 1967. When Andy arrives, he is subject to beatings, humiliation and all manner of horrors within the prison system. He endures the harassment seemingly unfazed. Slowly he learns to adapt, utilizing his talents as an auditor to garner favor from the powers that be. In time he inspires his fellow inmates, making friends with them, in particular Red who originally bet that Andy would be the first new inmate to crack.

The film is highlighted by several amazing performances. Morgan Freeman embodies his character with reverence, heart, and warmth. Tim Robbins is every bit his equal in a role that is more difficult to warm up to. If the actor appears a bit of an enigma, that is only because the character is meant to be that way. There is a quiet way about him that makes the other inmates uneasy and tells us and them that he does not belong there. Actor Bob Gunton is a villain for the ages as Warden Samuel Norton. A stern man that exploits the prison for his own gain as low-cost labor. He presents himself as a god-fearing man, although his true nature is gradually disclosed. The depth of his evil seems to know no bounds.

Shawshank4

Like a flower growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, the narrative is uplifting even though we are presented with the most oppressive of surroundings. My personal favorite scene features Andy locking himself in the warden’s office and using the central microphone to blast an opera record through the grounds. As Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro echoes through the penitentiary, Roger Deakins cinematography captures the emotion as the inmates look upwards, embracing the audible gift. It is hard to describe the feeling, but the scene always brings me to tears. Shawshank is brimming with moments like this where the hope of the human soul triumphs over adversity in the most inspiring way.

So, assuming you love Shawshank like I do then you may be struggling to find movies that give you a similar sense of awe and inspiration. I hope to help with that by giving you a handful of recommendations based upon different aspects of Shawshank Redemption.

The Green Mile

Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.
Maybe you are looking for another film based on a Stephen King story, set in a prison, featuring a wrongly convicted protagonist, and directed by Frank Darabont. That is a lot of similarities. Add in the great acting of Tom Hanks and Michael Clark Duncan and you have The Green Mile.

Good Will Hunting

Perhaps you don't care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn't miss.
Perhaps you don’t care about similar actors or settings. Maybe you just want to recreate some of those feelings of confliction and see a character make some amazing changes and eventually embrace hope. I think you will find few movies as uplifting and powerful as Good Will Hunting, the debut effort of now Hollywood superstars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Throw in the humor and heart of Robin Williams and this is a movie you shouldn’t miss.

The Shining

Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.
Lets take that Stephen King influence and go even darker than the Shawshank penitentiary. The Shining catalogs the disturbing mental collapse of Jack Torrance as he works as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel which holds onto some of the tragedies from its past. Directed by legendary Stanley Kubrick this is the kind of suspense/horror film that nightmares are made of.

Se7en

Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman's filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directoral touch of David Fincher.
Shawshank is the best of Morgan Freeman’s filmography. Which is saying a lot for a guy that has been nominated 8 times and won Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby. But I would go to the gripping crime drama Se7en if I wanted to see a great Morgan Freeman performance along with a young Brad Pitt, a disturbing Kevin Spacey, and the deft directorial touch of David Fincher.

I.Q.

Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.
Perhaps you are craving something of a lighter fare. A film that was also released in 1994 and stars our everyman Tim Robbins. I.Q. is an entertaining romantic comedy in which Walter Matthau plays legendary physicist Albert Einstein and helps a mechanic woo his niece played by Meg Ryan.

I hope this gave you some ideas for your next movie night. Please let me know your thoughts below on Shawshank Redemption as well as any of my recommendations. This is a place for sharing.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) – Not New Review

Every Wednesday, I post a review of a movie which is not new (no less that 2 years since release). In general, these will be movies that I enjoyed watching and in some cases have seen multiple times. This is primarily because, unlike many critics, I don’t enjoy spewing invective. Instead, I like to think about and spend my time on movies that I liked. That being said, I tend to like a wide range of films and I hope that some of my tastes match your own. I will freely reveal major plot points and spoilers in these reviews, but I will do my best to warn you or to [su_spoiler title=”Spoiler Hidden”]hide the spoiler material behind a shield.[/su_spoiler] With that being said, let’s get to the review.

perks3

The depiction of high school life in The Perks of Being a Wallflower really isn’t all that different than it was in 1985 when John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club highlighted how even though we are all dysfunctional, we all have worth. In fact, the immortal words of The Breakfast Club’s resident jock Andrew Clark could practically be Wallflower’s chief thesis: “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.”

Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky, who also penned the best selling novel of the same name, captures the high school years in all their awkward glory. He definitely has his finger on the pulse of the joys, fears, and angst that most high schoolers deal with. Charlie (Logan Lerman) has already been through a lot outside the classroom. Ever since his best friend committed suicide and his favorite aunt died in a car crash, he’s simply been unable to cope. He can’t seem to shake a sinking feeling of utter hopelessness. Add to that, the bullying, hazing and cruel antics of high school and it’s no wonder then that Charlie already has a running countdown to graduation. Just 1,384 more days, and he’s free.

Perks1

Logan Lerman is great as the understated lead. I see Charlie as a Holden Caulfield for the MTV generation. He mostly keeps his thoughts to himself and blurts them out passionately and awkwardly when he does choose to express them. Lerman shows something special that was missing from his Percy Jackson portrayals in this nuanced performance. He refuses to make Charlie pitiful when he has every right to be. I could not help to get knots in my stomach as he takes each step forward with uncertainty. It just feels genuine like the rest of the film.

The movie takes place around 1991, before cellphones and social media monopolized teenage communication. This absence underscores the incredible generational divide that has opened up in so short an amount of time. Check out the clip below to get a sense of the emotional climate of the movie. There are definitely funny portions, but overall, this is a gut-wrenching film which wrestles with a very complicated time of life. Perhaps it just rings true to me because I was a misguided 90s teenager listening to 80s bands and looking for my place in the world.

Charlie embarks on his first days of high school as an old soul who has no friends apart from his English teacher Bill (Paul Rudd) who feeds him tons of great books to continues to feed his love of reading and writing and provide him some guidance along the way. Bill is one of my favorite characters and he gets to answers the ultimate question of a teenage boy, “Why do some girls settle for losers?” Profoundly, he states his answer in a way that I think guides the rest of the story, “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

Soon however, Charlie stumbles into a group of friends who are just as messed up as he is. None of them are particularly good influences, but they give him something that he’s been looking for… belonging. They include the wise-cracking, constantly philosophizing homosexual Patrick (Ezra Miller) and the angry punk-rocking Buddhist Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). But the most influential is the girl. All of you guys know what I mean when I say the girl, she makes him forget some of his troubles and pushes him to be the best version of himself. Being a big fan of Harry Potter and especially Emma Watson, I was excited to see how she did on her first non-Hermione role and she was stunning. The camera loves her and she even nails the American accent.

Perks2

This girl named Sam takes an interest in Charlie’s well-being and welcomes him to the “island of misfit toys,” where they can all “be psychos together.” Charlie describes Sam as “the kind of pretty that deserves to make a big deal out of itself,” but Charlie is immediately drawn to the fact that she doesn’t see herself that way. She seems out of place with this group until we learn her background and realize that like some of The Breakfast Club, she just does a better job at hiding her dysfunction. Naturally, he falls for her, even though she’s three year his senior and is currently dating a jerk who is more than a few years older than her.

As the credits rolled I felt somewhat uplifted, even though it is a dark film. Its PG-13 rating comes from sexually suggestive scenes (mainly springing from the groups’ fascination with the Rocky Horror Picture Show), heavy themes (including sexual abuse), and drug use. It’s fair to say the film’s content is less than wholesome. But the content alone shouldn’t determine the value of a work of art. The important thing is the way the film interacts with, speaks to, and frames that content that really matters. It is from this perspective that I think The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an excellent movie.

For the characters, salvation comes through love and the conscious decision to enjoy life in the moment. Though faced with the unbearable darkness that often finds us in life, these characters find healing as they cling to the love they share and find meaning in the moments in which they feel most alive. Some of the most memorable scenes involve Sam and eventually Charlie standing up in the back of a pickup, arms spread and head back, listening to just the right music, as they speed through a tunnel. They are embracing the meaning of life as it hits them in that moment, and this meaning carries them through the dark moments. Too often, we let life’s unbelievably rich moments pass us by as we focus on trivialities or get so caught up in finding a grand purpose that we miss the meaning and glory in the small things. Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those small things. Don’t let it pass you by, and keep the tissues close.

Spotlight (2015)

With about 4 weeks until the Academy Awards, I’m still watching these highly lauded films to be as knowledgeable as I can. I still have a bit of a list to watch, but I have made some good progress and I think I will make it. I just wish the Academy would make it a little easier on me by sending me screeners of all the movies. But one of the most recent that I was able to catch was Spotlight. It tells the story of how the Boston Globe shined their Spotlight, also the name of their long-running investigative unit, onto the cover up of abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. You can read a great article on the Boston Globe’s website about how the real story unfolded and how it was transformed into a movie.

In a nutshell, the Spotlight team was lead by its editor Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), who was born in raised in Boston. His team of reporters: Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sasha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) who were all known for their reporting skills followed the leads and uncovered the ugly truth. The investigation took five months, and countless hours, but the finished product was a story that would change so much.

Over time, there have been many jobs that have been held in high esteem. I’m thinking of pilots, astronauts, police officers, and firefighters. While some of those jobs have lost their luster in the public eye, we have not seen a fall from grace quite so drastic as that of the Priest. Going back to the middle ages, the Priests were among the most highly educated people in a given city or town, and as a Christian, it disgusts me to even think about the scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church.

spotlight2A few isolated incidents of priests (or pastors) falling into sin is unavoidable. However, the story that Spotlight tells goes deeper to reveal the ugly truth that the Catholic Church as an institution collaborated to cover-up these incidents, protect the offenders from justice, and create an environment where further atrocities could take place. This pains me as a believer knowing that we are all fallen and corrupt people in need of grace, but I can only imagine the collective effect that these scandals have had on the church (Catholic and Protestant alike) as non-believers and marginal attenders have left in droves in the past decade. An article at Salon.com reveals that, “Catholic defection is the single greatest factor driving the much-heralded rise of the nones, who now account for just under 23 percent of the population. Almost one-third (28 percent) of nones are former Catholics, the single largest share of any religion.” I hope Churches, organizations, and businesses will learn from this story and know that when something like this happens it affects a lot of people, and they must understand that some bad press is not as important as a person’s life and emotional well-being.

spotlight3Oddly enough, reporters have perhaps lost just as much respect as priests but for a completely different reason. I mean, how much more respect can you get than being the job that Superman choose to do as his alter ego. But I miss the day when news was actually news. Why does anyone care that Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose are having a feud over a couple of selfies and social media posts? Why was Tom Brady sentencing and appeal over “Deflategate” headline news while Greece’s economy was tanking and Turkey was stepping up to fight Daesh. This film reminded me that journalists used to investigate and break real stories. I hope that the pendulum swings back to the American people valuing the reporters that tell real stories that impact the community and not which celebrities just broke up.

spotlight4Channeling great films like All The President’s Men and Network, Spotlight, written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, honors the account of events with their writing but never loses sight of the story they are telling. The writing is outstanding. They don’t have any agenda in this film except telling the story. I was afraid that as this subject was handled in film we would see a vilifying of the Catholic Church. On the flip side, it was also good that they didn’t try to make heroes out of the Boston Globe. It felt like they tried to be completely unbiased while writing the story. It could have been very easy for this film turn into a Lifetime or ABC Family movie and be a manipulative mess, but instead it became a polished and well-wrought film.

spotlight5McCarthy, also the director, lets his actors and the shocking truth take center stage. Mark Ruffalo gives a fantastic performance as a highly driven investigative journalist and has really been knocking them out of the park lately. Michael Keaton also gives another awards season-worthy performance as the leader of the Spotlight team. Stanley Tucci was amazing, though I don’t think Tucci is capable of giving a bad performance. Also, Liev Schreiber gives one of the best performances of his career. His turn as Marty Baron was calm and understated, but he takes charge in every scene he’s in, which is saying something considering the caliber of the other actors and actresses with whom Schreiber shares the screen.

Spotlight is one of those movies that will stand the test of time and is deserving of the awards credit that it is receiving. I really enjoyed this film as it takes the time to deal with a heartbreaking story that needs to be told. Everything from the writing to the acting is amazing. I doubt that Spotlight will make it to the top of the Oscars heap, but it definitely deserves to be widely seen and given all of the praise that we can give.

Alien (1979)

Ebert – Great Movies Review – 2003

Ebert – 30th Anniversary Review – 2009

Alien1In Alien we follow a seven man crew en-route to earth on board the huge space freighter “Nostromo”. The crew is in cryosleep, but the on board computer interrupts the journey when a foreign radio signal is picked up. It originates from an uninhabited planet and the crew lands to investigate. There they make contact with an alien life-form…

What makes Alien so great is the constant feel of uneasiness. Right from the beginning you have a feeling that something is wrong. The crew is not particularly friendly towards each other, and you truly feel all the in-group tension. The ship itself is a huge worn out industrial-style maze of halls and corridors, and it feels more like a prison than a place to live. It is as if not only the alien but also the ship itself is against the humans. The alien itself is the scariest monster in history because it is a ruthless, soul-less parasite completely devoid of any human or civilized traits. alien3The design of the monster is a stroke of genius. Sure it has a humanoid form, but it has no facial traits or anything else which could give away emotions or intentions. Its actions reveals no weaknesses nor civilized intelligence. The alien is more or less the opposite of everything human and civilized, plus the creature is more well-adapted to the inhumane interior of the ship than the humans who build it. To sum up, you then have a setting where the humans are caught in a web of in-group tensions, an inhospitable ship and the perfect killer which thrives in the ships intestines. You almost get the feel that the humans are the ones who are alienated to each other and to their own ship.

Ridley Scott tells the story with a perfectly synchronized blend of visuals and sounds. The actors do a superb job, portraying their characters in a subtle but very realistic way. The seven man crew is not a bunch of Hollywood heroes. They are ordinary people with strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. In this way they all seem so fragile when confronted with the enemy.

alien6As mentioned the ship is very claustrophobic and Ridley Scott adds to the eeriness by using camera movement, lights and shadows in an effective way. The living quarters are bright and should be comfortable to the crew, but there is something sterile about it all. The rest of the ship is basically a huge basement. The music by Jerry Goldsmith underlines the eeriness so well, and the movie wouldn’t have worked without his score. Combined with the sounds of the ship it all adds to the uneasiness.

alien4This is not a story about heroic people who boldly teams up against evil. It’s a story about ordinary people facing true fear, which is the fear without a face. The fear we can’t understand and can’t negotiate with, because its only goal is to survive on the expense of us. It’s a story where some people bravely fight back whilst others are destroyed by the terror. It’s a story where people are killed in a completely random way. There is no higher-order justice behind who gets to live and who dies. All seven characters are just part of a race where the fittest – not necessarily the most righteous – will prevail, and all seven characters start the race on an equal footing. None of them are true heroes, and none of them are true villains.

alien5All the above makes Alien so great as a horror movie. The terror isn’t just the Alien itself, it’s the entire atmosphere which gets so effectively under your skin, that you just can’t shrug it off after the end credits like you can with so many other Hollywood horror movies. The title “Alien” doesn’t just refer to the monster, it is the theme of the movie and it is the feeling you have during and after the movie.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Ebert – Original Review 1994

Ebert – Great Movies Review 2001

Pulp-Fiction-666
Writer/Director/Actor Quentin Tarantino with the stellar Harvey Keitel as the Wolf.

Continuing on the idea of watching the best movies that you can find on Netflix, I come to Pulp Fiction. Of course, Pulp Fiction is the film that simultaneously shot Quentin Tarantino into elite directorial status and cemented his place as one of the most innovative auteurs of all time.

His screenplay is divided into three stories, each introduced with a title card. First, there’s the story of the hit man who has to take his boss’s wife out for the evening while her husband is away. There’s the story of the aging boxer paid to throw a fight and the quest to retrieve a uniquely special family heirloom. Finally, there’s two hit men in a messy situation that needs a quick solution. These three separate stories are intertwined and not told linearly. Each story could easily stand on its own as a short film, but told as they are, each adds a further dimension to the others. The non-linear progression is not simply a gimmick, but rather an essential aspect of the film’s narrative.  Continue reading Pulp Fiction (1994)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The familiar scrolling yellow text setting the scene as the grand John Williams score blares to alert all that things just got real. Yes, Star Wars is back, and I for one am very excited about where this series is going in the next 30 years. This is the first Star Wars movie we have seen in 10 years, and the first real one in 32 years. I’m sorry but the prequels were just not good. I’m not sure if it was Hayden Christensen’s awful acting, the invention of midichlorians to science away the force, or Jar Jar Binks’ zany comedy relief, but the three prequels need to be lost to the annals of time and maybe we can let J.J. Abrams have a shot at recreating them. With The Force Awakens, he manages to perfectly blend the old and the new and makes a powerful and dramatic next step in the epic saga.

swfa1The movie features a blend of new characters as well as actors reprising their roles from the original movies as we join them 30 years since the destruction of the Death Star and the fall of the Empire. We are treated to Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew as Han Solo and Chewbacca, Carrie Fisher as Princess turned General Leia Organa, and Mark Hamill even makes a brief albeit epic appearance as the nearly mythical Luke Skywalker. There are plenty of other visuals and references that caused the theaters to erupt with fanboys (and girls) gushing their praise. However, some have said that this film was too close to the originals and it should be called more of a reboot than a sequel. I disagree.

swfa3.pngI see the presence of the original characters as a way to pass the baton on to a new generation as we step into new adventures. John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, and Oscar Isaac as Poe bring a delightful on-screen chemistry reminiscent of the original trilogy but setting a course for a new direction. The new characters are at home in the Star Wars universe, nothing feels forced, and they welcomingly provide a lighthearted and fitting next generation of heroes. Both the old and new cast work beautifully together, and the result is a film jam-packed with classic banter, references to previous movies and suspenseful action.

While the aforementioned prequel trilogy received criticism for its excessive use of CGI among other things, The Force Awakens returned to its roots, using models and miniatures whenever possible. John Williams provides yet another great soundtrack, however upon my first watching I did not hear another song that would compare to Duel of the Fates. But there were beautiful call backs in tone and melody to the original series especially the Imperial March. Ultimately, the music did what it is designed to do enhance both the action-packed battle and chase sequences and touching personal scenes. Also, I don’t think there were any lulls in the movie, meaning that if you do go and see it in the theater, make sure you go to the bathroom first and don’t drink too much because there are no good opportunities to leave for 5 minutes.

 

swfa2I will not spoil anything here, though if you have waited as long as I did to watch the film you will need to watch out for sneaky spoilers already creeping their way into pop-culture. My recent favorite being Adam Driver reprising his role on Saturday Night Live as Kylo Ren becomes Undercover Boss.

The movie is very good and provides a great introduction to the next trilogy. There are several shocking reveals throughout, and the conclusion leaves many questions unanswered while pointing to more movies to come. However, would you expect anything else from the guy who brought us Lost. All in all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wonderful addition to this saga and I can’t wait for my kids to get hooked on this new series.

 

Rain Man (1988)

Ebert Review – 1988

I’m working through several 2015 movies and tying to put my feelings into writing before the Oscars come on in two weeks. My problem is that I have found a couple that I very much enjoyed watching and it is always more difficult for me to write a review of a good movie than one that I despised. So often it is hard to even express why a movie resonates with me, but usually the reasons that a movie is awful come to mind very easily. In the meantime, I am going to share some really good movies that you can watch on Netflix while you are stuck inside during #snowpocalypse.

rainman1Rain Man is “definitiely” a very entertaining movie, but it isn’t just funny in certain points. It is Charlie’s character development that keeps the movie interesting. Raymond is steadfast. He is an autistic savant and is unwavering in his personality, his delivery, and his routine. God help you if you mess with his routine.

rain-man-1988-03-gThis film was made before the autistic spectrum was really outlined the way that we have today. We can even see this in Ebert’s review of the film as he compares autistic people to cats. He asks, “Is it possible to have a relationship with an autistic person? Is it possible to have a relationship with a cat? … I have useful relationships with both of my cats, and they are important to me. But I never know what the cats are thinking.” This film was partly responsible for bringing the savant form of autism to light in popular culture, but it did it in a way that didn’t pander to the audience or play on it for emotional trickery, nor does it linger on the sideshow parlor tricks that Raymond’s disorder affords him. Instead it remains focused on this complicated relationship.

There is a moment in “Rain Man” that crystalizes all the frustrations that Charlie feels about Raymond, a moment when he cries out, “I know there has to be somebody inside there!” But who? And where?

It takes some time and work for him to get there, but by the end of the film Charlie find himself loving Raymond, this brother which he never knew he had and of whom he tries to take advantage. How does he get there? Does he find a way to fix Raymond? Some miracle cure that turns him “normal?” No, as anyone who knows someone who suffers from autism, the way to love them is to love them right where they are.

RAIN MANIf you do decide to watch this as a family, I would encourage only much older children because the language is pretty salty and there are even a few brief moments of nudity. If you can catch an edited version on television, it may actually make it better, because in this case, those aspects do nothing to drive the story further. This could have easily been a PG-13 movie. The message comes through loud and clear however as we ask ourselves if Charlie is really any more mature than Raymond even though society accepts one but not the other.