The Rainmaker (1956): 4/5
In this film, which IMDb bills as a “romantic drama western comedy,” Katharine Hepburn is Lizzie, a very smart but very plain girl in danger of becoming an old, loveless spinster. Burt Lancaster is Bill Starbuck, the new guy in town – and a traveling con man.
I bought this on DVD having never seen it before, for two reasons. The first is that it was only four bucks and I can’t resist cheap DVDs. The second is that it stars Hepburn, who is always delightful.
With those as my only reasons for purchasing, this could have easily been a total dud that I ended up donating to the library or re-selling to a local record store. However, my sixth sense of bargain hunting and my seventh sense of magical “good films from my favorite performers” radar did not steer me wrong this time.
This film is gripping and lovely, though most people seem to think it not only takes a leap off of the corny cliff but into a field full of corny, corny corn.
The message, I will admit, is a bit sentimental. It’s all about believing in yourself and accepting your flaws. The old adage that “you must love yourself before anyone else can love you” suits this film to a tee.
I can see why a lot of people would take issue with such an optimistic message. Since we’re so used to picking out flaws in both ourselves and others, it can seem unrealistic for a character to undergo such a transformation.
But if you can put aside your own nit-picking for a second, the transformation that Lizzie undergoes is actually not only pretty realistic (though her self-acceptance occurs much quickly than I’ve ever seen it happen for anyone in real life), but also very moving.
This great message in conjunction with solid, though somewhat over-the-top performances makes for a very enjoyable film. Hepburn and Lancaster work very well together, and the supporting cast is just as successful.
The Rainmaker is a film with a lot of heart, many strong performances and some of the best character transformations I’ve seen recently. It’s sentimental, it’s exaggerated, but it’s wonderful nevertheless.