The Rainmaker-Original Film Review Essay, Research Paper
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 porch and mesh screened doors. A glimpse at the backyard reveals a rusty, wreck of a classic car, containing Buddy Black and a bottle of liquor, and is covered in a congregation of stray cats. Inside houses a cosy kitchen, a scratched wooden table, paisley patterned lounge chairs and Donny-Rays bed, the centre of a simulated hospital room, with the few medical devices the Blacks could rustle up without the aid of insurance.
Another setting quite effectively featured is St. Peter s hospital, housing battered Riker. Entering the dim and gloomy cafeteria, contrasting the brightly lit, disinfected, starched white walls of the hospital rooms and hallways, gives the viewer a peek inside Riker s world of pain, confusion and poorly administered bandages.
The courtroom, where most of the action takes place, is the epitome of law and order. The squeaky clean marble floors and polished wooden beams display the tradition of the courtroom and the importance of all which takes place in this setting. Other settings also lend credit to the film, the tackiness of Bruiser Stone s office, the peace and beauty represented at the jewellry store where Riker is employed amidst visits to the hospital, and the dark and secretive cinema, where Baylor and Riker share a tender moment. All settings are effectively and appropriately chosen and are very apt in relevance to the storyline of the film.
The storyline is one of the most crucial parts of a successful film, though the actors who portray their characters realistically are the absolute essence of the production. The Rainmaker sports a cast of both experienced actors and up and coming stars of the film industry. Matt Damon, a young actor taking off in Hollywood, is the true star of this particular film. Playing the honest and idealistic Baylor s acting seems effortless as Damon comes across as if his character were his true self. He portrays the innocence of this young and inexperienced attorney extremely well in the scene when he enters the courtroom for the first time. His difficulty with the microphone, clearing his throat and his apparent nervousness depicts the reality that he had virtually no idea what to do.
Another credible scene in which Damon reveals his fine ability as an actor occurs upon viewing the aftermath of yet another beating of Riker. The emotions flashing across his face speak volumes, clarifying to the audience the intensity felt by Baylor towards Riker. Which brings about another merit in Damons performance, the amiable manner in which he befriends his clients both on a personal as well as professional level. Scenes when he is seen spending time with both Donny Ray and Miss Birdie reveal his compassionate nature and genuine liking of the people he is working with, both in character and not. Damon plays a perfect Baylor, his jokes funny, and acting believable, his commendable performance as Rudy Baylor one of great credit to the film.
The other actor who excelled himself in his role was Danny De Vito. De Vito, a more experienced actor, often acquires roles such as this one of Deck Schifflet, to show off his admirable ability to add tremendous gusto and humour to a film. The scene in which Leo Drummond (Jon Voight) and a juror Billy Porter (Randy Travis) get in a brawl over a scam constructed by Baylor and Schifflet ends in Drummond losing his shoe. De Vito returns the shoe to Drummond saying something along the lines of I believe this is yours , a hilarious scene obviously indicative of De Vito s recognised talent.
Other notable also actors offered their talent to the film. Johnny Whitworth plays Donny Ray in a stirring and wistful portrayal of a 22 year old man dying of leukemia. The video he features in for courtroom evidence expressing his disgust at the insurance company for denying the claim for his life saving bone marrow transplant was particularly moving. Mary Kay place also contributed a wonderful performance as Dot Black, her acting utterly believable. One could see the pain of losing a son in her eyes and hear it in her voice, which remains stable in her fight for justice, and silent apology to her only son.
It is a battle for justice, a fight between good and very evil, and a craving for idealism which are the predominant themes of The Rainmaker . Insurance company Great Benefits are the enemy, the Goliath, whilst Baylor and the Blacks equal David. Like the Biblical tale, Good always prevails, as did in this case. When a greedy company like Great Benefits makes money by ripping off the less well off citizens, such as the Blacks, it is also becomes a battle for Justice. When Baylor realises that law is not as honest and fair as he d imagined his idealistic views are shattered, he states near the end that law isn t the profession for him by saying Every Lawyer at least once in every case feels himself crossing a line he doesn t really mean to cross, it just happens, and if you cross the line enough times it disappears forever and then you become a lawyer joke, just another shark in the dirty water.
Symbolism presents significance to the themes, especially in the use of the Memphis Pyramid (the real Memphis Convention Centre) depicting the classes of society in the film. The apex of the pyramid is Great Benefits, the absolute power, and the base representing the lower class citizens, whom the company swindles money from. Another symbolic token was the photo of Donny Ray given to Buddy Black by Baylor, displaying the emotional link Baylor had with his clients, revealing his innocent and honest approach to the business
Two time Oscar winner of cinematography John Toll, recognised for his brilliance with Braveheart, did an extremely plausible job with this film. Various shots were used to disclose the importance of particular scenes. Techniques used included close ups, to show nervousness in the shaking of Jackie Lemanczyk s hands; the emotion on Baylor s face; and intimacy between Baylor and Riker, Zoom in shots on Dot Blacks face as she gave oath; and the sweeping shots of the 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.