One little woman from Memphis bankrupted them stupid, stupid, stupid sons of bitches!
What exactly is a Rainmaker? A person that can make the dollars fall from the sky. Okay. So who is The Rainmaker? In the great Francis Ford Coppola film based on John Grisham’s novel, The Rainmaker is Matt Damon in his wonderful portrayal of Rudy Baylor, a recent Memphis State Law School graduate who’s studying for & then takes the Tennessee Bar Exam in his first leading role, released just before Good WIll Hunting.
Coppola’s script is so good that I find it hard to imagine it was adapted from a Grisham piece. Not that I’m trashing Grisham here, but his novels are mainly commercial, just add water & they make their own sauce, formulaic works. It’s funny, joyous, important, and anti-establishment (which, being adapted from Grisham’s 6th novel, seems rather ironic). It’s also Grisham’s favorite film of all those adapted from his novels.
The cast in this movie is tremendous. As usual, Coppola is masterful in directing this great cast and in announcing some fabulous newcomers to the world: Claire Danes is Rudy’s spousal abused client & love interest, Kelly; Danny DeVito is fantastic as Rudy’s goofy but wise partner & mentor, Deck, who has failed The Bar six times; Mickey Rourke again works under Frances Ford (he previously marveled audiences as The Motorcycle Boy in the 1983 classic, Rumble Fish) as the likable but corrupt Attorney Bruiser Stone, who gives Rudy his first job in the law profession while he’s studying for The Bar; Teresa Wright in her final acting role as Birdie; Roy Scheider is the CEO of the corrupt & thieving Great Benefit Insurance Co.; Jon Voight looms large as Great Benefit’s Attorney Drummond; Mary Kay Place plays Dot Black, the plaintiff in a law suit against Great Benefit; Danny Glover, the liberal leaning Judge Kipler; Johnny Whitworth turns in a heart-wrenching performance as courageous, leukemia-ridden Donny Ray Black; and Virginia Madsen’s brief performance alone as Great Benefit’s forced to resign Claims Handler, Jackie Lemancyzk, makes the film worth watching.
The main plot and secondary & tertiary sub-plots revolve around Rudy’s interactions & relationships w/ his three clients. Respectively: Dot & Donny Ray, who he is representing in their lawsuit against Great Benefit for unfair denial of coverage for his bone marrow transplant operation; Kelly, for whom he drafts divorce papers for her to serve her evil, vicious husband Cliff; and Birdie, his landlady, whose will he is rewriting to “cut, cut, cut” out her shiftless sons.
This movie’s themes are numerous and uplifting. Amongst them: spousal abuse; corruption in big business; success is how you define it; love & protection; and most importantly, David & Goliath. While this is not a Francis Ford piece on the order of The Godfathers I & II or Apocalypse Now, it ranks w/ the best of his second tier films like The Outsiders, Peggy Sue Got Married, Gardens of Stone, Rumble Fish, Tucker, etc. It was not nominated for any Oscars, but Voight received a Golden Globe nomination for Supporting Actor.
Don’t take this film lightly, As Birdie would tell you if she were still here today, “This is that good processed turkey.”.