Exercise 2.2: Explore a road

Watch a 'road movie' of your choice. Write a short review, focusing on how the road features within the film's narrative.

Rain Man

Directed by Barry Levinson, 'Rain Man' (1988) tells the story of a selfish yuppie car dealer, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who's deceased father leaves an old car and some rose bushes in his will. Not only is Charlie bitterly disappointed about the will, he also discovers that he has an autistic brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), who has inherited his father's multi-million pound estate. 

In order to gain access to the inheritance, Charlie intends to gain custody of his brother by travelling to Los Angeles. Charlie intended to make a quick, emotionless flight to resolve the situation, and a fast custody hearing. However, Raymond's autistic tendencies remind him of every aeroplane crash, and so he refuses to go so that he doesn't get hurt, preferring to take the low-risk car journey, punctuated by motel stops and game shows. Therefore, the two brothers begin a cross-country road trip together.

At first, the siblings contrasting interpretations about their cross-country excursion creates a lot of tension between them, to the extent that Charlie stops the car in the middle of the desert and shouts at Raymond out of pure frustration. Despite what seems will be a long and arduous journey, the monotonous rhythm and predictability of the road give them both the time to learn from each other and be more harmonious. Charlie learns about Raymond's incredible mathematical ability, such as memorising the jukebox numbers at a diner and that he was the 'Rain Man' (Charlie's 'imaginary' friend) during his early childhood. 

The cinematography during their road trip is largely based on Raymond's viewpoint, reinforcing his need for order and routine. A mixture of wide-angle and close-up shots capture the shadows, patterns and rhythmic nature of travelling. Raymond is also captivated by the motion of the car, traveling underneath bridges and the telegraph poles that pass them by. 

Whilst the road is responsible for them having the time to get to know each other better, the stops along the way also provide them with opportunities to form a positive relationship, such as: Raymond counting cards in the desert; Charlie pawning his watch so that they can they can buy suits to play Blackjack; and Charlie teaches Raymond to dance. 

After learning that he is in $80,000 of debt, Charlie plans to take advantage of Raymond's incredible memory at the casino. It is during their stop-over in Las Vegas, surrounded by opulence, that Charlie realises the true value of his brother. Following this, when they arrive back in Los Angeles for the hearing, Charlie halts the proceedings, when it is clear that Raymond is unable to decide for himself about what he wants. Furthermore, Charlie refuses the $250,000 offered to him to walk away, instead stating that he is happy for Raymond to be his brother. 

The final scene sees Raymond boarding an Amtrak train, starting a new, quicker, riskier journey, with Charlie promising to visit him in a couple of weeks. The road in Rain Man influenced the pace of the film. It enabled the two main characters to have time to familiarise themselves with each other, echoing the regularity and predictability of the road. This idea of pattern and repetition is something that I would like to include in my second assignment about a journey. As well as there being unfamiliar journey into the unknown, there are also the regular routine journeys that we take which I would like to explore during this part of the course.