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Movie Review : 'Rainy Day Friends' Are Surrounded By Puddles

December 19, 1985|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

Along with the usual year-end blockbusters, Christmas invariably brings at least one earnest low-budget effort, booked for a one-week run presumably in a deluded attempt to qualify for the Oscar race. This season's entry is Gary Kent's "Rainy Day Friends" (at the Fox International), a film as well-meaning as it is miscalculated.

Sentimental and contrived, it tells of an unlikely friendship that strikes up between an incorrigible Latino youth (Esai Morales) and a Beverly Hills attorney (a stolid Chuck Bail) when both are patients at a Southern California cancer treatment center.

Morales, a petty thief and drug dealer, is just about as uncooperative as a patient as could be, declaring war on the hospital that's not costing him a penny for life-saving treatment, rather than on the disease. Yet we're asked to believe that his combative spirit, as misdirected as it is, inspires Bail not to give in to his own illness.

Kent means us to be sympathetic with Morales, who's trying to protect his illegal alien family from exposure, yet gives us no reasons to be so. (Wouldn't he be doing his relatives more of a favor by making every effort to get well, especially since his illness is not necessarily terminal?) Morales childishly hammers away at the hospital and its regimens, yet it seems quite a decent well-run place.

Not everyone on staff, headed by John Phillip Law, is perfect, but all seem like saints, even Morales' nemesis, head nurse Carrie Snodgress, in comparison to him. The hospital in fact has a thoroughly dedicated, plain-talking psychotherapist (Janice Rule, who manages a few effective moments) determined to save him from himself. What does Morales have to say for all her thankless efforts in his behalf? That she's "a gringo puta ."

Relationships and characterizations remain undeveloped as the film proceeds unsteadily. The red-hot emotional intensity Morales displayed in "Bad Boys" is merely tiresome here. What's really hard to forgive, however, is "Rainy Day Friends" (rated R for adult themes) wasting not only Rule and Snodgress but also Lelia Goldoni (as Bail's devoted wife).

'RAINY DAY FRIENDS'

A Signature Films presentation. Producers Tomi Barrett, Walter Boxer. Writer-director Gary Kent. Cinematographer-production designer Ronald Victor Garcia. Music Jimmie Haskell. Film editor Peter Appleton. With Esai Morales, Chuck Bail, Janice Rule, Carrie Snodgress, Tomi Barrett, John Phillip Law, Lelia Goldoni, Kimberley Hill.

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

MPAA rating: R (Younger than 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian.)

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