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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

John Grisham's The Rainmaker
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Paramount 05/98 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG-13 - strong beating, elements of domestic abuse

John Grisham's The Rainmaker (Paramount) celebrates the zeal for justice espoused by a rookie Memphis lawyer. The engaging character-driven screenplay, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is held together by an entertaining voiceover narration by Michael Herr. Matt Damon is perfectly cast as Rudy Baylor, a recent law school grad whose first employer is Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke), a sleazy lawyer. When this wheeler-dealer is imprisoned, Rudy sets up his own 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. Having been beaten as a boy by his father, 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 young lawyer's meat-and-potatoes case centers around Great Benefit, an insurance company. Dot Black (Mary Kay Place), a policyholder 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 savoring. Rudy is a flawed hero who commits many errors and has to confront his own demons. But we cheer for him because of his zeal.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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