Eye For Film >> Movies >> Rain Man (1988) DVD Review
Reviewed by: Amber WilkinsonRead Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Rain Man
The great thing about older films like Rain Man getting the special edition treatment years later is that the extras take on an additional retrospective quality. With the filmmakers assured that their movie has been a success they seem more able to relax and it is at this point that the more interesting anecdotes - those that have stood the test of 14 years since the film was made - which surface.
This is certainly true of some of the commentary material presented on this disc. There are three commentaries on offer, rendered with varying amounts of success. Director Barry Levinson plays the straight man. He is obviously a person who deals in concepts and it is these that he talks about. The concepts of greed, of communication and of relationships are key to this movie and he's happy to talk about them, though like the images in his film he keeps his commentary simple. He frequently sits back and just watches a scene - but the comments he does make are pertinent and hold the interest.
Not so unfortunately for the commentary by Ron Bass, one of the (many) scriptwriters. He has things to say about the film and his involvement but runs out of steam early on, relying on talking "to the movie" too much and on stating the obvious. He also comes across as something of a luvvie, gushing about the actors and associated writers to the point where he begins to take on an edge of falseness.
Thank goodness, then, for the commentary track by the original storyteller and screenwriter Barry Morrow who has an huge raft of entertaining anecdotes and also offers a genuine insight into the inspiration behind the film. He talks almost constantly throughout, but so much of what he says is intriguing that my hand rarely strayed for the fast-forward button. He talks about the original intention to cast Bill Murray in the Charlie (Tom Cruise) role and the decision to change the ages of the men, paying tribute to the collaborative nature of the film - much of it was filmed while there was a writer's strike in Hollywood so that huge chunks of the dialogue are improvised by Cruise and Dustin Hoffman - while fleshing out the "real" Rain Men on whose experience they drew to ensure authenticity. Reading between the lines, you sense he is still sore at being ditched from the project midway and at the strike which prevented him from being on set while the shooting was in progress, but he always falls on the side of wistful rather than bitter. It's a shame he hasn't written more as his is the sort of commentary that more movies could do with.
What is perhaps most interesting about the fact that the commentaries are all separate - and one could certainly aruge that the screenwriters could have recorded theirs in tandem - is the way myths spring up and perspective makes such a difference. Morrow's interpretation of his involvement and input differs widely from Bass's and so on, although the lasting impression which emerges is that Levinson and Hoffman, in particular, had a huge influence on the dialogue and plot movement.
Of the other extras, two are Region 2 exclusive - The Journey of Rain Man Featurette and Lifting The Fog: A Look At The Mysteries Of Autism featurette. It makes a change for those of us in Europe to get the additional goodies and these are definitely worth having. The 20-or-so-minute Journey of Rain Man traces the film's chequered history - it had four directors, including Steven Spielberg and an army of scriptwriters - and features recent interviews with writers, producers and Levinson himself. Cruise and Hoffman are noticeable by their absence on all of the recent additions (maybe MGM wasn't offering enough). That aside, this is informative and engaging.
So too, is the (dreadfully named) 20-minute Lifting The Fog - whoever thought of that title should be taken out and slapped with a wet kipper - which offers a genuine insight into the world of autism, featuring some of the "rain men" - Joseph Sullivan, a maths savant, and Peter Guthrie, whose date memory is encyclopaedic - on whom aspects of Hoffman's character were based. It's clear to see how he imitated their mannerisms, but also provides an important addition to the disc in that it shows how these men are able to function perfectly well within the community, even if it is on their own terms - as opposed to be institutionalised like Hoffman's character.
The other extras are little more than what Levinson would describe as "candyfloss"- they look good and taste sweet, but have little substance. There is a seven minute original featurette which is little more than a puff piece recorded at the time the film was first released. It's really for completists only, but is worth a look if only so that you can remark on how little producer Mark Johnson has aged in the last 14 years. I suspect a portrait in his attic.
There is also a deleted scene of Raymond failing to cope with being in a shop but it's easy to see why it fell to the cutting room knife. Still not had enough of a Rain Man fix? Then spin on over to the trailer - one of the few that could be watched before the film without ruining it - and the sizeable collection of cast and crew production stills, they flip by themselves but there is no over music. The subtitles are clear and easy to read, shame there isn't a set for the Morrow commentary, though.
As to the quality of the film, it's a solid transfer with the colours holding up well. The soundtrack doesn't ask much and is clear and crisp enough.Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2004