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Shari Allen, PharmD, BCPP
Ernie Luk, PharmD Candidate

Faculty Perspective

Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) appears to have multiple characteristics of several behavioral disorders. He is defiant, selfish, does not see the fault in his own actions, and has an entitled personality. Charlie’s father dies and while they were estranged at the time of his death, Charlie shows no sadness or emotion. Instead he looks forward to how much he will receive in his father’s will. You can imagine the attitude that Charlie showed when he discovered that not only does he have a brother in which his father kept a secret from him but that brother was the beneficiary of the 3 million dollars written in his father’s will while Charlie received rose bushes.

Charlie’s brother, Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman), is Autistic Savant. Charlie does not understand this disorder instead he spends most of his time trying to take advantage of Raymond. He thinks because of his brother’s disorder he can manipulate him into signing over the 3 million dollars to himself. What Charlie fails to realize is that Raymond is intelligent. He has a profound memory  (history, numbers, counting cards) far beyond the capacity for Charlie to comprehend.

Things begin to take a turn in their relationship. Charlie realizes that his brother’s ability to memorize numbers and images can help him get money to pay off a lender, he takes his brother to a Las Vegas casino. The Las Vegas trip is the catalyst for Charlie beginning to show that he has the ability to care about someone beside himself. It takes a while, but Charlie does genuinely care for his brother. He cares so much that in the end Charlie puts his brother’s needs before his own.

Rain Man is the winner of 4 Oscars (best picture, director, actor, and original screenplay). It has received many positive reviews for its depiction of autism. But what it also accurately displays is the evolution of a person from being completely self-centered to learning to put others first.

Student Perspective

Rain Man is a story about a young egotistic car salesman with financial concerns, who tries to use his autistic brother as leverage to obtain half of the 3 million dollars left after his father’s death.

Rain Man begins with a car salesman, named Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise), who has always been about money and greed. While on vacation, he finds out that his estranged father had just died. He goes to the funeral and finds out that his father’s will left him with a 1949 Buick convertible and rose bushes.  He then finds that 3 million dollars was left in a trust fund for an unknown beneficiary. Upset that he wasn’t allowed to know their identity, he investigates and finds that the money is going to a mental institution, Walbrook. He runs into a patient at the institution, whom he learns is his brother that he never knew existed. Charlie learns that Raymond is autistic savant, where he has deficiencies in learning and communicating but has extraordinary abilities, such as recalling information and making large mental calculations. Along with that, he has grown to become strictly attached to specific daily routines that, if altered, can disrupt his thought process.

Because of his frustration and anger because he didn’t inherit any of the 3 million dollars, Charlie kidnaps his brother, Raymond, from the hospital in order to bribe the doctor at the mental institution to give him his half of the inheritance for his return. He takes Raymond to Los Angeles to meet with his lawyers to conduct a custody battle with the institution. With his recall of past plane crashes, Raymond has a fear of flying. Consequently, Charlie is forced to drive to L.A. Along the way, Charlie begins to understand Raymond’s autism and his mental abilities (winning them money by counting cards in blackjack at Las Vegas). He grows a personal connection with him. By the end of the film, Charlie develops a change of heart, and decides that he doesn’t want his half of the inheritance, but to just have custody of his brother.  However, an assessment of Raymond deemed him incapable of the outside world, and was ordered to return to the institution. Charlie does tell Raymond he would return in a couple weeks.

Throughout the movie, you can start to see the eventual bond between two brothers.  Charlie’s motives of selfish greed dissipated and finally to an understanding of Raymond’s condition and a growing love for a brother.  By taking Raymond outside of Welbrook and exposing him to new environments, Charlie experienced the best and worst qualities of Raymond.  Consequently, this allowed him to reassess his moral attitude of life.  

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