John Grisham’s The Rainmaker - * * * 1/2*

John Grisham's The Rainmaker

Director Francis Ford Coppola tackles a rather mainstream film for his latest outing: a John Grisham adaptation. Not the most auspicious of genres, to be sure, but Coppola actually turns out one of the best adaptations, and a rather good film to boot.

As is typical in Grisham’s work, the main character, Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), is a young lawyer, fresh out of law school. However, rather than finding employment with a glossy law firm, Rudy is stuck working for Bruiser Stone (Mickey Rourke). He is assigned to work with Deck Shifflet (Danny DeVito), who can show him the ropes of ambulance chasing.

Luckily, Rudy already has the line on two cases he picked up in a law workshop in law school. The first is to redraft the will of the potentially rich Miss Birdie (Teresa Wright). But the other is his high stakes case. Dot Black (Mary Kay Place) has been in a quandry. Her son is dying from leukemia, and the insurance company for the last year has refused to pay for his only hope: a bone marrow transplant.

While Rudy is busy sueing the insurance company, studying for the bar, and picking up Deck’s ethically murky skills, he runs across Kelly Riker (Claire Danes), a battered wife whose husband has recently assaulted her with a baseball bat. Kelly and Rudy form a bond a friendship, and soon much more.

Although the insurance case takes the primary spotlight in the film, The Rainmaker only benefits from its numerous interesting subplots. The most interesting involves Rudy’s relationship with the entertaining DeVito. Shifflet is one of DeVito’s more likeable scoundrels, and his lessons about legal ethics in the real world are a delight.

Of course, when the main plot is in full force, it is captivating as well. Rudy’s opposition in the trial is a slick corporate lawyer, played with villainous slime by Jon Voight. And, though at times the trial may seem a bit one-sided, there’s plenty of drama as it moves along.

Matt Damon is an able lead, forceful and likeable. His only problem is that he gets outshone in parts by the talented supporting cast.

With numerous entertaining subplots, plenty of well thought-out characters, brought to life by talented actors, and an invigorating trial, what more do you want from a Grisham film?

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