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A story about an aspiring young lawyer who tries to break down an insurance
company, Matt Damon plays Rudy Baylor, a Memphis St. Law School graduate who
can't seem to find a job anywhere, until he meets "Bruiser" Stone (Mickey
Rourke). Stone is an ambulance chaser, who does whatever it takes, legal or
not, to win a case. Rudy, as most law students are when they graduate, wants
to take the high road, do everything by the book, and win. What he finds is
that sometimes you need to get down and dirty to help your client. In this
case, his client is a young boy, dying of leukemia.
Seems the insurance company won't pay for a bone marrow transplant that would save his life. Rudy sets out to help the young man and his family, in what turns out to be one of the biggest cases Tennessee has ever seen. Along with his partner Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito), Rudy sets out to try and prove to the world that the insurance company is nothing more than a big time scam artist. Along the way Rudy meets (and falls in love with) a young woman (Clare Danes) who gets beat up regularly by her husband. This part of the story seemed somewhat strange to me. I couldn't figure out what it was there to do. Was it to give Rudy a love interest? Was it just to give the movie another case so the entire film wasn't centered on the insurance trial? I feel it gave the movie some heart, and showed that Rudy would fight for what he believed in, both in court and in life. But I think the movie could have been done without it.
I enjoyed the trial scenes and all the grunt work that went behind it (being a future lawyer myself (I hope)). And the cast was wonderful. Each person added a little more to the movie, and each gave a great performance. Danny Glover as the (2nd) judge gave a little humor to the movie, but also made you feel good about Rudy's chances in court. He was going to play fair, but hew as also going to give Rudy the benefit of the doubt. Jon Voight played the insurance company's lead lawyer, and he played his character to it's swarmy best. He is what people think lawyers are like, out only for money; win at all costs, no soul (I know attorneys like that). And he was convincing. And of course DeVito and Damon carried the film.
I had my doubts about Damon playing a lawyer, but the more I watched, the more I realized that he looked like people I see at work everyday. He had the same fear in his eyes that we all do, but also that dog-eat-dog determination to prove to the world that he could do the job. The Rainmaker was more about the performances than the story. And the performances won me over. Give it a shot, it's worth it.
Readers of John Grisham's book will find this film rather less of a thriller
and more of a courtroom drama, albeit with a curious flat feel to it. The
story is that of a legal action on behalf of a teenage boy denied coverage
for an expensive bone marrow transplant by his family's medical insurer.
Changes to the plotline to accommodate the story to the demands of film
drama have removed the unique feature of the book a largely successful
attempt to make the details of legal civil procedure interesting. Francis
Coppola is a very innovative yet conventional director (you could credit him
with authorship of several current movie clichés) and his storylines develop
according to convention. Thus the love affair, which is completely
extraneous to the main storyline in the book, is pumped up, and the
fascinating battle of wits between the lawyers played down. As in the book,
Rudy is the tyro David up against the experienced Goliath, Drummond, but
Rudy's inexperience is played up to the point that you wonder how he got
this far. The trial judge, who in the book is extremely helpful to Rudy, is
replaced in the film by a sympathetic but much more impartial figure. In
Hollywood conventional courtroom drama, His Honor or Her Honor doesn't take
That said, there is much to enjoy. Danny de Vito, playing Deck the paralegal (or `paralawyer' as Rudy names him) who can't seem to pass the bar exam, is just brilliant. His Deck is a disheveled, unimpressive little guy who is nonetheless good at what he does, `rainmaking' or finding new business. His strengths are his intelligence, his energy and his lack of pride; he is quite happy to chase ambulances and give cops backhanders for information. His ethics are simple: fight for your client, don't steal and try not to lie. While the Deck of the book verges on the grotesque, De Vito makes him less of an oddball and hence more sympathetic. Matt Damon as Rudy is wetter behind the ears and not such a quick learner as the Rudy of the book, but every so often he connects and we understand how he feels. Mickey Rourke is a bit too elegant as Bruiser, Rudy's erstwhile mentor, (who wears cufflinks on a tropical beach?) but it's also an enjoyable performance. Although the script tones down his role, John Voight is nastily urbane as superlawyer Drummond.
Once again we have a courtroom drama filmed in a grand but gloomy courtroom, in fact the lighting people seem to have been absent. We hardly get a glimpse of the face of one important minor character, Cliff the wife-beater, (Andrew Shue) yet there is no apparent reason for this. The way some of the scenes were strung together, and started and finished were vaguely familiar, and half way through it hit me - ` The Godfather', where scenes just seem to begin and end without any particular reason.
One thing the film does almost as well as the book is send the message (sorry Mr Goldwyn) that America needs to do something about its medical insurance system, if the present chaotic mess can be so described. The court system, while not perfect, comes out of it a bit better (David is able to beat Goliath fair and square) but as for lawyers well, let's just say things would be a lot better if they stuck to Deck's minimal ethics. The story also might explain why John Grisham (who has a walk-on role as a lawyer at an al fresco deposition) gave up the law to write books, thus bringing pleasure to millions instead of (hopefully) winning retribution for a few.
This movie is not a movie that makes you think. It's not arty, there
are no Corleones, there's really no issues to ponder long after the
credits have stopped rolling. Instead it's a human drama that uses a
courtroom battle as its backbone, but the entire body is the
honestly-told if ultimately remarkable of a greenhorn lawyer trying to
make a life for himself after law school. Like the more recent "Garden
State" the movie is far more interesting than one would initially
I recently read the Grisham novel that the screenplay was adapted from and was impressed by the memorable cast of the characters. The corrupt-and-loving-it Prince and Bruiser, Deck Shiflett as the skeezy "paralawyer" who scrapes out a living with an amusing lack of self-consciousness, the bitter-tempered first judge and his pioneering, biased black successor, the politely patronizing and puffed-up Legal Titan Leo Drummond, Cliff and his straight-from-Deliverance hillbilly family, lonely and slightly bossy Miss Birdie, chain-smoking Dot and her addled husband, all of them set a standard for memorable but believable characters.
Yet the movie is itself a cut or two above the original material. The extended cast does a hands-down fantastic job of bringing each character to life. First billing has to go to Danny Devito for transforming Deck from Rudy's unscrupulous and ugly sidekick in the novel, into a more take-charge and casually hilarious partner. Just take a look at the scene where he leads Rudy into the hospital or when he's giving out his card to the kids in Dot's neighborhood. But that's just one of about twenty stellar acting jobs. The extended cast includes Danny Glover, Jon Voight, Claire Danes, Mickey Rourke (yes!), Virginia Madsen, and a handful of other talented but lesser-known actors who show their absolute best through the skillful lens of Coppola.
Besides the stellar job by the cast, the story is tweaked to absolute perfection. Whether it's the Coppola magic or an excellent adaptation and editing job, I see a transformation similar to his triumph with "The Godfather": an absorbing but complex and sometimes rambling story is condensed into its absolute essence. Not a single shot is out of place.
Something else struck me about this adaptation -- it reminds me of Peter Jackson's LOTR in the way comic moments are used to balance out the weightiness of the main plot. For example: in LOTR Merry and Pippin set off Gandalf's dragon fireworks, or in the second movie Gimli can't see over the parapet towards the advancing Uruk-hai, or in the third movie Sam and Gollum have their argument over the proper preparation of rabbits and 'taters and Gandalf instructs Pippin to keep his big mouth shut before they enter the hall of Minas Tirith. Likewise "The Rainmaker" has its little touches of humor as well, from the sardonic lawyer jokes in Rudy's voice-over, to the scene where Deck fake-helpfully hands over Drummond's lost shoe after he's been assaulted by an angry juror, to Rudy's red-faced apology to the car accident victim in traction whom he has accidentally jostled, to Madsen's laconic yet particularly devoted husband Bert. ("Guess who DIED last night?" "...Do you ever sleep?") There is anxiety during Kelly's return to her house, the suspense of the bug showdown, the pathos of Rudy's final speech: all these combine with the lighter moments to balance each other like a film version of Pickapeppa sauce.
Who could have ever guessed that a Grisham novel could be so perfectly adapted to the screen?! Just try watching the "Pelican Brief" afterward for comparison. My hat is off to Coppola, his cast, and everyone else who contributed to this understated masterwork.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
All cultures have what the sociologist Arnold van Gennep called "rites
de passage," also sometimes called puberty rituals, in which the
initiate enters the ceremony as a child and emerges as an adult.
Coppola and his team show us Rudy Baylor's rite de passage as an
attorney. Matt Damon, as Rudy, is a fresh faced preppy-looking kid just
out of law school. After working for the sleazebag played by Mickey
Rourke and going into partnership with Danny DeVito (who has flunked
the bar exam six times), he can look back down the slope and pick out
the idealism he left sprinkled along the route of his ascent. He winds
up quitting practice.
But it's not a particularly gloomy story. I missed the credits when I first saw this so I had no idea who had created it. I expected a cheap ne plus ultra of mind-numbing commercial fluff. What else would anyone expect with a title like that -- "John Gresham's 'The Rainmaker'"? Shades of Sydney Sheldon! The opening didn't suggest much more than that. There is a voice-over by Matt Damon explaining his background and expectations to us. And we see him being guided open-mouthed through the slimier parts of the judicial system. DeVito introduces him, for instance, to ambulance chasing. Not too promising, really, because professionals who operate within heavily guarded social borders -- like lawyers, cops, doctors, and pilots -- almost always assume that the audience is too dumb to know that collusion between a judge and a prominent lawyer takes place. The lay audience is now cynical enough to recognize Perry Mason for the Norman Rockwell fantasy that he is.
But it was much better than that. Half-way through I began to think, this director, whoever he is, is pretty deft. I was surprised at an undercurrent of humor. Sometimes it was situational. Two lawyers for instance, dashing into a courtroom to try a case, neither of whom has a license to practice law. ("Sworn in by a fool and vouched for by a scoundrel," Damon muses.) Sometimes the humor requires less attention. (In the middle of a dramatic pause, DeVito, eager to deliver a piece of evidence to his partner, stumbles loudly over a waste basket.) And there were smaller, delicate touches. A splatter of blood spots on a wall as the camera cuts away just before someone is hit over the head. Damon and Claire Danes (with whom a love bond is too quickly established) in a prison visiting room, unable to express their affection because they are lawyer and client, except that under the table the tip of his shoe slips forward and brushes the tip of her boot. (Wow. Nice touch.) And Claire Danes' wife-abusing husband is a stereotype if there ever was one -- yet after his murder is discovered and the blinking screaming police cars arrive and she is about to be taken away, the wife-abuser's family can be heard in the background shouting, "DAMN you, Kelly. What did you do? You killed my SON?" Coppola and the writers have given this moron a previously unheard-from family of his own, and added another surprising dimension to his character.
And I couldn't get over the performances. There are several unexpected small parts taken by well-known actors. And every one of them has a life of its own. Virginia Madsen is being interviewed in a motel room by Damon, and she spills the beans on the malignant corporate megagiant that provides the unoriginal heavy. As she speaks, she smokes a lot and the camera moves slowly down her arm to show her fingers trembling in her lap. Only later do we learn she has psychiatric problems. (Cinematic synecdoche!) Roy Scheider is extremely good too, a disdainful presence in the witness chair. He's from Orange, New Jersey. Why does DeVito so often seem to wind up in movies with other actors from New Jersey? What is it about that state anyway? Does the Jersey Devil have something to do with it? Why does hail always have to be the size of something else? If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding INTO? Anyway, this, for Coppola, is a pretty straightforward story, neither the grand opera he's attracted to, nor the more quiet "personal" films that usually come in between.
I really kind of enjoyed this one. Of the current crop of younger actors, Matt Damon seems to me to have the most talent, as opposed to, say, Keanu Reeves. And Claire Danes is so frangible, so beatable in this movie; even with her leg in a cast and the rest of her limbs and head in bandages, she's morbidly alluring and radiates a sort of semisexual heat. Come to think of it -- well, never mind. See it if you can. It's pretty good.
I love this film. This is probably Copola's last great film. Matt Damon
was robbed, this is one of his best performances, and that's saying a
lot. I love the little nuances of his performance, like when he greets
the "old lady' at her house.
This is my 2nd favorite film of all time with deep personal meaning. We've all had people doubting our capabilities, just as the other team of lawyers discount Damon's competence. This film is about personal redemption. Further, I admire Damon's strength.
Overall, a film every law student and lawyer should see for its humanity; its brilliance; and its judgment on the American legal system.
The Raimaker was a _great film, adherent to the book, even to the
deposition of Donny Ray Black being moved from his bedroom to the
backyard and his father getting into his old Ford to drink his gin.
Of course I seldom watch a movie without reading the book first as that gives me insight into the innuendos presented,and to see how closely the movie follows the book.
For those viewers who don't like to read I _still think the movie has continuity and an easy to follow plot development.
Very good entertainment, especially if you like Matt Damon, Danny Devito, John Voight and the delight of Virginia Madsen simply being on screen.
Amiable yet smooth adaption of the John Grisham novel, that closely
follows an inexperienced Memphis lawyer, Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), who
the unexpected feeling of being in the profession by taking three cases
right away. The cases vary from an old woman who is unsure about what to
with some money, a savagely abused domestic victim, and a lawsuit
a major health insurance company.
Writer-director Francis Ford Coppola and one of his writers from "Apocalypse Now", Michael Herr, handle the adaption fairly well in knowing what to keep from the story in and what to leave out. For someone who made himself a legend by adapting "The Godfather" and "Heart of Darkness", Coppola sure knows how to use a novel as the main source for creating a good tale here.
Plus, the movie has an excellent supporting cast (Danny DeVito, Jon Voight, Mary Kay Place, Claire Danes, Dean Stockwell, Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Roy Scheider, and Danny Glover) to be in the movie alongside Damon. Among the ones that come to mind, DeVito is great Deck, as a crafty (and humorous) para-lawyer who has trouble with the bar exam and helps Rudy in adjusting to the line of work, Voight's fine as the not-so-totally slimey lawyer that Rudy faces in the lawsuit, just looking at the Danes character for a second alone, is a really sad and Rourke is amusing as Brusier, the employer that Deck and Rudy desert when they find out that he's the target of a federal probe.
In conclusion, "The Rainmaker" may not be as highly memorable as "The Godfather" or "Apocalypse Now", however; it shows that Coppola still has the skills to be a great film-maker. It's nice to see someone who has been on hard times, bounce back with a good movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is rare that I would rate a piece of strong liberal propaganda this
high but I've always really enjoyed this film, even if it is blatantly
manipulative in its political correctness preaching. It's just great
The film features a deep cast and one that puts on a great displaying acting, from the lead "good guy" Matt Damon to the lead "bad guy" Jon Voight to all the performers somewhere in the middle, headed by ambulance chaser Danny DeVito.
It's not a believable story at all - a rookie lawyer fresh out of school outsmarting a team of proved veterans with big money backing them - but it makes for a good story. Everyone likes to root for David against Goliath, which is what this turns out to be. Just one example, by the way, of the political correctness in here: the kid lawyer's hopes of a fair trial only become reality after the older, obviously-corrupt white judge suddenly dies and is replaced by Harvard- educated black judge (Danny Glover, of all people). Now, as it's quickly demonstrated in the film, a man of Liberal sensibilities will be bring fairness and justice to this case!
The story is not flattering to lawyers, but it's not all-condemning either. It's pretty balanced in that regard. It's just good storytelling and, I might add, without much profanity. Damon does very well in this choice role and once again demonstrates why he is considered one of the best in the crop of today's younger actors. It helps that he portrays an extremely likable character, who not only sticks up for a poor, neglected family against a big, wealthy corporation but rescues a sweet woman (Clarie Danes) from her physically-abusive husband at the same time! Wow, he does it all: SuperLawyer!
Danes is very appealing as the battered wife who winds up being romanced by Damon. That part of the film is not distracting, but a nice break from the legalese of the main story. It helps make the movie even more involving. There is very little "action" in here but not much is needed to keep one's attention since it is so entertaining for the full 2-plus hours.
I have hardly ever seen a movie that is as good as the novel it is
based upon, so I wasn't expecting this movie to be better than the
novel. The story isn't as interesting in this movie, but the cast is
great, the entertainment value is excellent, and veteran Director
Francis Ford Coppola is behind the camera here. Coppola has directed
movies like the epic mob masterpiece The Godfather and plenty of other
This was released a couple of weeks before Matt Damon's huge hit Good Will Hunting, so this is one of his first big roles in a movie. Danny De Vito does a great job in adding plenty of humor to the movie, and Jon Voight adds a lot of dramatic effect to his character.
The story follows a young lawyer who is representing the family of a boy with leukemia who could have had proper treatment, but couldn't because of a seedy insurance company. The movie pretty much follows the book, but the problem is that the book had a few great sub plots that seem absent from the movie, and one scene that happens in the middle of the movie happens in the end of the book. The scene is very intense, but it seems more like it belonged at the end of the movie, rather than the middle.
This is worth watching, it is one of the best Grisham films, and there are plenty of great qualities in it.
Readers are usually disappointed when a favorite book is translated to
film. If you are looking for a Grisham thriller here, you will be
disappointed. But, if you are looking for a courtroom drama with a
great cast, then this is a great film.
Matt Damon shines as Rudy, recently out of law school, who sets up an office with Deck Schifflet (Danny DeVito) who is still trying to pass his bar exam. He also finds a place to stay with Miss Birdie (Teresa Wright) who has hired him to handle her estate papers.
Rudy is drawn to the plight of Kelly (Claire Danes), a working-class girl whose husband has battered her with a baseball bat. But the real drama is centered on Great Benefit, an insurance company that has refused to pay a claim of one of its policy holders.
Dot Black (Mary Kay Place) whose son is dying of leukemia is suing the company for denying her claim. In the courtroom, the unpolished Rudy is forced to square off against Leo F. Drummond (Jon Voight), a corporate lawyer who knows all the tricks of the trade. This David versus Goliath battle is well worth watching.
Damon, De Vito and Voight, along with Claire Danes and Danny Glover shine in this film.
So, forget the book and enjoy a great film.
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