John Grisham’s “The Rainmaker” is the sixth novel to film adaptation and is by far one of the more accomplished. Directed by Francis Ford Copolla, this intriguing courtroom drama reveals the ordeals of a young lawyer and associate entering the realm of unscrupulous money hungry company’s scams. “They were totally unqualified to try the case of a life time, but every underdog has his day”.
To become a “Rainmaker” is Rudy Baylor’s (Matt Damon) ambition, to try the case of a lifetime and make the “big bucks” fall from the sky. Passing his bar exam with ease, this idealistic Memphis law school graduate, confidentially enters the eye-opening world of law and injustice in the 90’s. Kick-starting his career in an firm of ambulance chasing attorneys, headed by the shifty Bruiser Stone, Baylor’s business is initially sparse, until Deck Schifflet (Danny De Vito) an unlicensed, street-wise legal assistant attempting the bar for the sixth time, steps in and demonstrates to the inexperienced Baylor how it is done.
Mrs. Birdie, (Teresa Wright) Baylor’s landlady, becomes his first case, a chirpy elderly lady wishing to leave her fortunes to a TV evangelist, much to the disdain of her family, whom Birdie wants to “cut,cut,cut” from her will. His second case is Kelly Riker, (Clare Danes) a young woman repeatedly assaulted by her husband Cliff (Andrew Schue). Riker catches Baylor’s eye in the hospital cafeteria, covered in bruises, attracting Baylor’s special interest to the case, as well as the safety of the defendant.
The central case of the film is that of a mother’s battle against an insurance company who refuse to pay insurance for her only son Donny Ray (Johnny Whitworth) who is dying of Leukemia. Dot Black (Mary Kay Place) puts forward a strong case, with the assistance of Baylor, unveiling the injustice Insurance Company Great Benefits exhibits in shunning a lower class family out of much needed money insuring a young man’s health and well-being. A heartwrenching tale of injustice unfolds in this Memphis courtroom, accompanied appropriately with many a humorous action and anecdote.
The fact that it is set in actual locations in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, gives this 20th Century film great authenticity. The home of Dot, Buddy and Donny-Ray Black is representative of typical lower working class citizens; a run-down American ranch style house with a wide front...
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... courtroom. He also featured techniques such as cross cuts between the interrogation of the CEO and Schifflets search for Lemanczyk, and flash back sequences of the happy days when Donny Ray was healthy and the insurance company rep. was offering the Black family a “great” insurance deal.
Voice Overs allowed the viewer to experience Baylor’s thoughts and sound effects like the thud of the baseball bat on Cliff Riker’s skull and use of rain and thunder in the murder scene, decorated the film and added to the suspense of the plot. Lighting in red tones gave warmth to the happier scenes and gray tinges shadowed the gloomier scenes. Music was predominantly instrumental with love themes during Baylor and Rikers intimate scenes and triumphant scores signifying the victory of the Black/Great benefits case. Costumes were thought out with Dot Blacks clothing coming from Good will stores to fasten that lower class citizen appearance.
In Conclusion, the entire film was a well thought out production. “The Rainmaker” was an interesting, enjoyable and at times quite poignant film, and well worth a high, middle, and lower class citizens movie ticket buying money!!! Recommended viewing for all.