Volume 91, Issue 53

Tuesday, December 2, 1997



Making a case for courtroom drama

By Dan Yurman
Gazette Staff

When a film is adapted from a John Grisham novel it is sure to contain two elements: the law and the south. Previous Grisham-adapted films all aim to expose the injustices of the legal system in a part of the United States where social injustice is part of the culture. The Rainmaker, the latest film adapted from a John Grisham novel, is no different

The film, directed by screen legend Francis Ford Coppola, centres on Rudy (Matt Damon), a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed lawyer, who, after hopping his way through law school has decided to join a small Memphis "ambulance chasing" law firm. While working there, he picks up a few cases, including a suit filed against a national insurance company.

After his boss has to flee the country for tax evasion and witness tampering, Rudy and his new associate, Deck (Danny DeVito), decide to break away, form their own firm and put everything they have into the insurance company case. Rudy quickly learns that law ain't like law school as the trial proceeds – and he must face tough competitors like Leo Drummond (John Voight), a hard-nosed and heartless defence attorney. This, along with the hard fact that sometimes, the good guys ultimately lose.

The Rainmaker has some impressive qualities, but it was released too soon. The filmmakers should have revised and removed the superfluous material, because there is a ton of it. The script is witty and charming and the acting is surprisingly good, especially on the part of Danny DeVito, who adds some comic relief in the form of slapstick. But the film strays far too many times from the main plot to the sub-plot involving Rudy and his object of desire, a very unhappily married girl played by Clare Danes.

While this sub-plot is done quite well, it is never shown to have significance to the story, stopping dead in its tracks three quarters of the way through the film. This is very disappointing because Rudy's journey towards the legal showdown is interrupted so many times in key situations, which takes away from the intensity and excitement. Removing this love element would have made the court case much more stimulating and would have shortened an already lengthy film.

Other than the extraneous sub plot, the film is well done. It is a lot like Grisham novels: interesting, mildly exciting and there is not much thinking involved. The Rainmaker is worth seeing on a Tuesday night or a weekend afternoon, but paying full price would be criminal.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998