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IN SHORT: John Grisham does comedy. Terrific
Inevitably, those of us who have read a couple of John Grisham's books see the same pattern: young, inexperienced Southern lawyer comes up against something Powerful (variations on racism and lynch mobs, Evil Corporations) and wins the fight for Truth, Justice and the American Way. Either you keep reading the books or you stop, as Cranky did. That makes the usual spiel about not making comparisons to Source Material all the more true.
That being out of the way, we move on to the Curse of Cranky, that being every Grisham adaptation I've hated has made major Dollars, and vice versa. If I were full of myself I'd say that writer/director Francis Ford Coppola loaded up The Rainmaker with more stars than you can shake a stick at, just to be safe. He needn't have, but the cameos by Roy Scheider, Randy Travis, and Dean Stockwell are all just icing on the cake.
What Coppola has done in his adaptation is the one thing we've never seen before. He kicked up the quirky quotient in all the supporting characters and layered warm comedy on top of all the expected Grisham elements. Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is the whitebread, first time lawyer. His lack of connections and need for a job throw him in cahoots with a slick lawyer named "Bruiser" (Mickey Rourke) and his ambulance chasing associate, Louie DePalma.
Sorry, Cranky suffered head injuries a while back and sometimes slips.
Danny DeVito's Deck Schifflet is much nicer than Louie, but it's a stock role for DeVito and he plays it to the hilt. Added to the quirk pile is Teresa Wright as Miss Birdie, Matt's landlord, a little old lady who wants to leave her millions to a TV evangelist because his jet is old. Matt's main client is a young man dying of leukemia whose insurance company won't pay his claim. The boy's dad lives in a car with a dozen cats and a small bottle of stuff to keep him warm.
Which brings us back to standard Grisham, Dot Black (Mary Kay Place) is the mother suing the big insurance company. Jon Voight is the evil big time lawyer repping said company. Dean Stockwell and Danny Glover are the judges who sit on the case, each of whom have their own agenda. And working the back burner all the while is Claire Danes as Matt's romantic interest, whose hubby is killing her with his love. And an aluminum baseball bat.
Considering that most adaptations leave tons of stuff out, it's amazing that so many stories are running side by side without getting in each other's way. Coppola's done marvelous piece of work.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Rainmaker, he would have paid...
John Grisham's The Rainmaker is funny, clever and incredibly fast paced for its 2 1/4 hour running time. A great date flick.
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