Study Guide

Rain Man Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise)

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Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise)

Charlie doesn't exactly leave the best impression when we first meet him. Or the second time. Or, um, the tenth time.

When the movie opens, Charlie is super frustrated because he is trying (and failing) to make a killing selling Lamborghinis. The problem? His little gas guzzling cash cows don't pass emissions standards, and so the EPA has just a teeny problem with that—and won't let him sell the cars onto the owners.

So, basically, our first glimpse of Charlie is of him being a crazed jerk, because he can't put more toxic-gas-spewing cars out in the already smoggy L.A. streets—not exactly screaming man of the year to us. He just wants his money and wants it now. It's pretty clear that $$$ rules Charlie's life.

Daddy Issues

Things start to shift, though, when Charlie's life hits an even bigger speed bump than those sticklers at the EPA: the death of his father. Charlie drops everything to go out to Cincinnati to attend the funeral.

Before you get all mooney-eyed about Charlie's commitment to family, though, we should tell you that it becomes clear pretty quickly that Charlie is going home more to collect his inheritance and tie up his father's estate rather than out of any kind of deep-seated love for his Pops.

In fact, as we learn when he and his girlfriend/partner Susanna are chatting, he and his dad haven't talked in years. They had a falling out over the fact that Charlie's dad wouldn't let him use his vintage car, a privilege that Charlie thought he had earned by getting good grades.

So, Charlie took the car without permission, got in trouble, and then left home when he and his dad got into a big fight about it. They hadn't talked in years when his dad died. Over a car. Apparently, Charlie takes cars really seriously.

Given the nasty family dynamics, it's no surprise that Papa Babbitt had largely cut Charlie out of his will—well, no surprise except to Charlie, who's shocked and furious. To make matters worse, his father's money has been left in trust to some unnamed trustee.

Brother Issues

Charlie decides to sniff out the identity of this mysterious beneficiary, and his investigations lead him to the Wallbrook Hospital, which cares for individuals with a wide range of medical conditions. There, he discovers that the vast majority of his dad's fortune has gone to a brother he didn't even know he had named Raymond. It seems that Raymond has autism and is unable to live on his own (hence his stay at Wallbrook).

Now, you might be wondering if this is the moment where Charlie decides to shrug off his life as a selfish yuppie and embrace his newfound family. Sorry to let you down, but it's not. Charlie is still thinking all about money, and so he basically kidnaps Raymond and plans to hold onto him until he receives half of the inheritance that Raymond received. Pretty crummy.

Of course, Charlie has absolutely zero idea of how to take care of or accommodate someone with Raymond's particular needs—and little inclination to learn—so, things start out a bit bumpy between the brothers during this little escapade. Raymond likes to stick to a schedule—one that largely revolves around TV—and he's scared of most planes… and highways… and the rain. You get the picture: Charlie's efforts to get them back to L.A. hit a lot of snags because of Raymond's wants and needs.

In the process, Charlie has to morph from being completely selfish most of the time to thinking about Raymond's needs in order to get through the day. He doesn't react well to the change at first, and he's often pretty short/not very nice to Raymond.

Rain Man = Raymond

However, things take a turn when Charlie realizes that he had met Raymond before he kidnapped him from Wallbrook. After his father died, Charlie told Susanna about an imaginary friend he'd once had named "Rain Man" who had sung him songs to make him feel better when he was scared.

Well, it seems that that friend wasn't so imaginary—it was Raymond. Unfortunately, there was some kind of incident where Raymond may have put Charlie in danger, which was why Raymond got sent to Wallbrook when Charlie was super young (which is why he doesn't really remember Ray that well).

Charlie's realizations on this front really seem to soften him toward Raymond and finally break down that whole greedy yuppie thing he'd been holding onto for so long. Finally, he and Raymond start bonding, and he starts being more nurturing and caring toward his big bro.

Money Still Talks, Though

Despite having kind of adjusted his priorities, Charlie still owes a bunch of money to customers who bought Lamborghinis and never, you know, received them, so he decides to combine his brotherly bonding time with some hardcore gambling in a desperate attempt to get some income. This may sound risky, but never fear—Charlie has a plan.

On the trip, he has discovered that Raymond is incredibly gifted at things like counting, and so Charlie (correctly) guesses that Ray would be excellent at counting cards. So, he basically uses his brother (who has no real understanding of what he's being asked to do) to cheat at cards. Not exactly a Normal Rockwell moment, but… well, he's still Charlie Babbitt, after all—what do you expect?

The plan works, and although the casino security gets pretty stern with Charlie when they realize what he's been up to, the brothers are allowed to leave with their earnings. Charlie is super happy, and he and Raymond share a nice moment after their big win where Charlie teaches him how to slow dance in preparation for a "date" Raymond has made with a random woman down in the bar.

A Man Reformed?

At this point, Charlie is now interested in having custody of Raymond for the right reasons—that is, they've bonded, and he's not keen to give up his brother now that they've finally been reunited. Unfortunately, as Raymond's doctor reminds him, Raymond has needs that it might be difficult for Charlie to accommodate. Charlie, in his typical stubborn way, doesn't want to hear that.

No, Really—This Time He's Changed

At the end, though, Charlie seems to realize that he's holding onto Raymond for himself, and that being back at Wallbrook is actually better for Ray. So, in possibly the first pure moment of selflessness we see from Charlie, he puts Raymond on a train with Doctor Bruner back to Wallbrook.

It's sad, but ultimately it's just nice to see Charlie do the right thing; letting Raymond go really clarifies just how far he has come from his super type-A, greedy, yuppie beginnings.

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