The Rain People

1969, Movie, R, 101 mins


This is one of those "better luck next time" pictures--and, of course, next time meant THE GODFATHER for Coppola. He'd already directed five films without much success: the vile little TONIGHT FOR SURE!, the disastrous FINIAN'S RAINBOW, and the unjustly overlooked THE TERROR, DEMENTIA 13, and YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW. Although studios had some confidence in his writing ability, his directorial work was seriously in question. This odd odyssey was not a hit, even though over the years it has been regarded as one of Coppola's more personal pictures and has attained a limited following. Knight plays Natalie, a childless Long Island housewife married to a decent man, Vinny (Modica). She learns she's pregnant and can't decide what to do, so she bolts, calling her husband from time to time to apologize, and to tell him of the baby and her thoughts on aborting it. Eager for sexual experience, Natalie picks up Jimmie (Caan), a brain-damaged former football player whose prospective job in West Virginia falls through when his former girlfriend's father (Duncan) sees Jimmie's current state. Traveling around with Jimmie through the South and Midwest, she eventually meets Gordon (Duvall), a widowed cop, when he pulls her over for speeding in Nebraska. Natalie begins a dalliance with Gordon, but her sexual and emotional odyssey ultimately results in a tragic conflict between the two men.

Too many flashbacks spoil the narrative, and Knight's character is confused, not very sympathetic, and not clearly motivated. Caan, who had played athletes in several films, is convincingly wooden here. Shot in Colorado, Tennessee, Nebraska, New York, and West Virginia, THE RAIN PEOPLE was was somewhat ahead of its time as a "feminist" movie (even if it does punish its heroine for her desires), predating STAND UP AND BE COUNTED and AN UNMARRIED WOMAN in the 1970s. The title is from a line by Caan that is hardly right for the retarded youth--"The rain people are made of rain, and when they cry, they disappear altogether"--whatever that means. The movie races all over the place in a hurry to illuminate the "little people" who live in quiet desperation. It's a bit too noisy for that, and yet there is enough about it to warrant attention. leave a comment

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