In the movie “Rain Man” Directed by, Barry Levinson, Charlie Babbitt played by Tom Cruise, is a Los Angeles car dealer in the business of importing high end luxury cars to California. His current deal of bringing in four Lamborghinis is being threatened by the EPA for emissions. If Charlie is unable to meet its requirements he will lose $80000 in deposits plus all the money spent obtaining the cars. After some quick ploy with an employee, Charlie leaves on a weekend trip to Palm Springs with his girlfriend, Susanna played by Valeria Golino.
Just as Charlie begins his trip it’s quickly cancelled by the news father’s death. Charlie and Susanna travel to his hometown in Cincinnati, to settle the estate. In the meeting with the lawyer Charlie learns all he is to receive is a classic 1946 Buick Roadmaster convertible and several prize rose bushes. Also brought to Charlie’s attention is that an undisclosed party is inheriting his father’s estate worth in excess of $3 million dollars. Eventually Charlie learns the money is being directed to a patient at a mental institution, which is the home of his autistic older brother, Raymond played by Dustin Hoffman. Charlie reveals how he grew up as a rebellious child and that following the death of his mother, he ran away from home at age 16 to California where he lived ever since, never speaking to his father ever again even though he had ample opportunity. Just before Charlie flies to California, he took the Roadmaster out on his 16th birthday without his father’s permission. His father subsequently called the police and reported the car was stolen.
Charlie and his friends were picked up by the police and taken to jail. Charlie’s father allowed the police to hold his son in jail for two days, while all of Charlie’s friends were been bailed out by their parents within hours. Ultimately Charlie asks the question that pervades the movie: “Why didn’t somebody tell me I had a brother?” Raymond is high functioning autistic adult male. He has superb memory recall, but little understanding of subject matter thus making him something to the extent of a large child. This form of autism is called autistic savant. As with most people who suffer from autism Raymond is frightened by change and adheres to strict routines. When he is in distress, he shows little emotional expression and avoids eye contact, occasionally he screams and his himself in the head. Charlie is upset by learning that he has a brother and determined to get what he believes is his fair share of his father’s estate, Charlie tries blackmailing the Psychiatrist in charge of Wallbrook Mental Institution, Dr. Gerald R. Bruner played by Jerry Molen, to give him $1.5 Million dollars.
When the Dr. Gerald R. Bruner does not concede to Charlie’s wishes, in an impetuous move to obtain the money Charlie takes Raymond on what becomes a cross-country car trip back to Los Angeles to meet with his attorneys. Charlie intends to start a custody battle in order to get Raymond’s psychiatrist, Dr. Gerald R. Bruner (Jerry Molen), to settle out of court for Sanford Babbitt’s estate, or at least fifty percent. During the course of the long journey, Charlie learns about Raymond’s autism, which he initially believes is curable resulting in his frequent frustration with his brother’s antics. Charlie also learns about how his brother came to be separated from his family, it was a result of an accident when he was left alone with Raymond when Charlie was around 2 years old. Charlie remembers the incident as early as he could remember and always thought that the person singing to him was an imaginary character, however it was Raymond singing “I Saw Her Standing There” by The Beatles.
Charlie proves to be sometimes shallow and manipulative, as when he uses Raymond’s precision memory and takes him to Las Vegas to win money at blackjack by counting cards. Winning big proves too much when casino security begins to watch Charlie and Raymond, even though they are unable to find any proof that either is using a cheater’s system to win against the house. In further exploration of their tactics the security team sends an attractive woman who finds Raymond alone in the casino’s bar. She is able to get Raymond to allude to his and Charlie’s system of counting of cards. Later, security asks to speak to Charlie privately and suggests that Charlie take his winnings, about $80,000 and leave. In the end, Charlie finds himself becoming protective of Raymond, and grows to truly care for and love him. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Charlie finally meets with his attorney to try to get his share of his inheritance, but then decides that he no longer cares about the money and really just wants to have custody of his brother.
However, at a meeting with a court-appointed psychiatrist and Dr. Bruner, because of Raymond’s mental condition he is unable to decide exactly what he wants. One option being to live with Charlie in California and the other is staying at the mental hospital in Ohio. Eventually, the psychiatrist presses Raymond to make the decision, upsetting him and leading Charlie to request that the doctor back off. Raymond is taken back home to the Wallbrook Mental Institution in Cincinnati. Charlie, who has gained a new brother and grown significantly as a person, promises Raymond that he’ll come to visit.
The DSM-IV states that to be diagnosed with an autistic disorder a person must have six of twelve listed traits coming from certain groups in the DSM. I feel that Raymond exhibits several eccentric behaviors all of which fit in the DSM-IV’s criteria for autism. From the first section on autism I believe he exhibits a lack of social or emotional reciprocity. This is shown on several occasions most importantly when Dr. Bruner is asking Raymond where he would like to reside, with his brother whom he had just spend a great deal of time with or at Wallbrook Mental Institution. Raymond is unable to decide on where he lives because he has no emotional ties to Charlie or the mental institution for that matter. Raymond also displays stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language.
There are a countless number of times that Raymond demonstrates his inability to develop in any conversation. If he does have a conversation it is almost always one or two words, and begins repeating those one or two words over and over. In the final category Raymond confirms my diagnosis of autism by showing both apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals and stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms. This is shown mostly when Charlie and Raymond are on their road trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. Charlie bends over backward numerous occasions to try and meet Raymond’s strict routines, which if not met result in repetitive motor mannerisms.
I feel that for Raymond who has an autistic disability has changed by leaps and bounds after his road trip with Charlie. I also believe that Charlie has changed for the better significantly due to his experiences with Raymond. By the end of the movie Charlie has changed from referring to his brother as weird or a retard, to viewing him as only different and in many ways very special. Raymond returns to the institution at the end of the movie, at which point it is clear both Raymond and Charlie have changed. Raymond is a bit more self-sufficient and has the ability to tolerate some affection. Charlie is trying less to stamp out his brother’s odd behavior by learning more about Raymond and how to accommodate to his disability. Charlie, like Raymond, also has learned something more about feelings and affection in addition to what is truly important in life. Just as Raymond’s wall of autism has yielded a bit, Charlie’s wall of vulgarity yielded as well.
I feel that when Charlie originally asked for guardianship of Raymond, solely for monetary gain. However by the end of their road trip I have come to the conclusion that he truly cared for Raymond and no longer wanted to obtain guardianship merely for monetary purposes. This is shown through his behavior toward Raymond especially when Charlie watches Raymond board the train. You can see Charlie is truly sincere when he talks to Raymond about coming to visit.
There are some important major messages set forth in “Rain Man”. The movie enlightens an audience to a very large and growing problem yet at the same time it was also able to entertain wonderfully. Still there are several minor caveats that are worth mentioning because they are important especially to the families of autistic and other developmentally disabled persons. First, Raymond is a high-level functioning autistic person. Yet autism is a vast disorder with a varying range of disabilities within it. While some autistic people do function at a level as high as Raymond, there are also many others who are severely disabled and never reach a level of independent functioning seen with Raymond. Regrettably, some of those affected with autism, even at this point with our current knowledge about autism, despite the best treatment endeavors and tremendous family support, long-term inpatient care may still be required.
As more and more facilities develop, with advancements to meet the special needs of this population, fewer and fewer of those affected, will be subjugated to life-long institutional care, and an increasing number will be able to be in the community side by side with the rest of us. One impression people may have received from the movie is that all people with an autistic disability are savants. When in reality only a shallow 10 percent of autistic individuals have savant skills. There is a distinction between talented savants and prodigious savants, and their numbers. The numbers who have the prodigious skills like Raymond are few indeed. The movie does not convey any separation nor do they explain Raymond’s skills. It should go without saying that those with savant skills at the level of Raymond are exceedingly rare, however they do exist. Another message not conveyed in the movie is that not all savants are autistic.
While the incidence of savant syndrome is much lower among the mentally retarded a small .06 percent compared to those whom are autistic 10 percent there is still a possibility for a mentally retarded person to be a savant. Because Mental retardation is a much more common condition approximately half of the savants reported are mentally retarded. The point is while both are developmental disabilities; mental retardation and autism are separate conditions. These lines can sometimes be blurred, as some mentally retarded persons can have some autistic features, but overall these two conditions have separate etiologies and require separate, specialized treatment and educational approaches. The savant abilities are grafted onto autism or mental retardation, although rare savant syndrome does exist as a special condition within both of those two disabilities.
In conclusion, autism is a condition that affects roughly 5 in every 10,000. In my research it can be very serious condition resulting in long term inpatient care. However, there is a lot of money and great minds all working to find any form of a solution or even a cure. I have an entirely new outlook on people who are affected by autism and I plan to share my knowledge in efforts to gain awareness. If this disease if brought into your life with a new child there will be a long road ahead, hopefully with medical advancements there will be some form of treatment that will suppress or eliminate this disease.