The Rain People Reviews
His points are no less valid, or interesting.
-feminist criticisms of the film. Would feminists still take issue with Natalie's promiscuous goals? Peary defends them as a realistic character choice and not just creepy male gaze stuff.
-Coppola's success at this woman-centred film before going on to a very male-dominated oeuvre.
-Coppola's - and Peary's! - sympathy for Natalie are charming: she's just not ready now, she needs her space, and it's possible for those to be true AND natalie to still love her husband.
It's never the answer. You have to turn around some time. If you can even do it anymore. Nowadays, if you use a credit card, if you have a phone or a GPS, you can be found. But somewhere, for a minute, between the exits on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you feel free.
So what's wrong with Natalie? Is she stifled by the roles thrust upon her? Is she at an existential crossroads? Or is she just selfish?
Films like The Rain People never answer those questions, they want to leave them open. I'm coming around to the notion that the best movies aren't the ones that take a stand and dare you to reject it. The best films are Rorschach tests for their viewers, where any comments about them tell you more about the speaker than the movie.
The Rain People was made in 1969, when its director Francis Ford Coppola was not yet an overindulged genius and was merely a budding genius. It's very much of its time - a road movie, generally plotless, the main character questioning the values that have been thrust upon her, against the backdrop of grotesque Americana.
One might wish Coppola had kept making small movies. As impressive as the Godfather movies are, I have trouble with films that ennoble scumbags (I have the same problem with Gone with the Wind). I prefer movies like this.
Watch it if you get the chance. It will stay with you.
Natalie is in an unhappy marriage and recently discovers that she is pregnant. She decides to runaway and try to find herself. She feels that once she finds herself she'll know whether to keep the baby and continue the marriage or have an abortion and start life over. As she drives, she encounters a mentally retarded young man that she can't seem to get rid of. The young man will change her life forever.
"Go to hell. At least I know you'll be taken care of there."
Francis Ford Coppola, director of The God Father trilogy, Apocalypse Now, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Jack, The Rainmaker, Rumble Fish, The Outsiders, and Dementia 13, delivers The Rain People. The storyline for this picture is very well written and contains awesome characters. The acting is brilliant and the cast includes James Caan, Robert Duvall, Shirley Knight, and Tom Aldredge.
"Bitch, how many times do I have to tell you to stop talking like a little tramp?"
I DVR'd this picture off Turner Classic Movies (TCM) during a recent Robert Duvall marathon. I watched this picture first due to it being directed by the infamous Coppola. I will say this film is a masterpiece and truly underrated. Caan and Duvall are awesome and Knight delivers a classic lead character. I strongly recommend seeing this picture and potentially adding it to your DVD collection.
"Where would a dumb dumb like that get a thousand dollars?"
Shirley Knight is newly pregnant, and panicking about the responsibilities of settling down. She has so little sense of identity that she often talks about herself in the third person. While her husband is still asleep, she sneaks away with no clear destination in mind. Soon she picks up a hitchhiker with the ironic nickname "Killer" (James Caan, shorn of his trademark curls). Caan is a former college football star who suffered a career-ending head injury during a game. After some time in a menial job on campus, he left school. He has the vacant demeanor of someone with brain damage (he doesn't even remember how to play "Simon Says"), and others casually mislead and take advantage of him.
Knight picks him up, not realizing how alone and helpless he is. He proves harder to unload than expected, partly due to circumstance and partly due to her sympathy. Multiple efforts to secure him a niche fail (the most vivid sequence involves a sleazy poultry farmer whose overstuffed coop might not be allowed on film today), and Caan continues as her sidekick on a trip to nowhere. In the final act, she encounters a small-town highway cop (Robert Duvall) who becomes crucial to the film's climax.
Francis Ford Coppola's direction is solid, but does not mark him as a future giant. Realizing his story is minimal, he is content with a slow pace, lingering on driving footage and incidental behavior. The first four minutes don't even contain dialogue. His boldest choice is inserting various flashback fragments to fill in details from the characters' past lives -- this device works quite well, in a French New Wave mode. Meanwhile, all three central performances are striking. Caan's work is particularly impressive, given that he's limited to such a small emotional range in a role which easily could turn farcical.
Naturally, the presence of the young Coppola, Caan and Duvall is the most pressing reason to see this minor film (and of course, all three worked on "The Godfather" three years later). Another interesting tidbit is that George Lucas is credited as a "production associate," and in fact made a short documentary called "Filmmaker" about the shoot.
My own favorite touch: the roadside stop with a large sign boasting "FREE PICNIC TABLES."
Interesting and well-acted.
Director Coppola's fourth feature is a bit slow and meandering, but his eye for a striking shot is already clear. The road-picture plot is well supported by performances from Knight and future Coppola stalwarts Caan and Duvall.