Michael Meredith's Three Days Of Rain follows the model of Robert Altman's Raymond Carver-compressing Short Cuts, swinging through six interlocking stories and a handful of vignettes, all set in Cleveland over a rainy three-day stretch, and all based on the short stories of Anton Chekhov. It's a well-conceived and fairly well-plotted movie, though Meredith the writer often hobbles Meredith the director. One of the film's first scenes has an artisan awkwardly howling to the heavens, "I'm just a goddamn tilemaker!" And most of the dialogue to come similarly just reasserts character: I'm a sensitive rich guy. I'm a taxi driver in mourning. I'm a junkie. I'm a drunk.
Meredith has a stellar cast to work with, and they do more with their flat lines than an amateur would. Meredith has his father Don—yes, that Don Meredith—doing a sympathetic, understated turn as a cabbie trying not to grieve openly over his son's death. He's also got Peter Falk, amusingly chewing the scenery as an alcoholic trying to reconnect with his son, and fine character actor Erick Avari as a wealthy man so appalled by his wife's indifference to a panhandler that he reassesses his whole value system. The performances are uneven, and Meredith lets some of his bigger names run wild—like Blythe Danner, who makes a cameo appearance in an odd freak-out scene—but mostly, the old pros keep the movie running.
Three Days Of Rain is beautifully lit, with some inventive but unobtrusive framing, and the moody jazz score unifies the multiple storylines without overwhelming them. Yet while the movie never goes slack, it never really transcends its good intentions either. This is one of those films in which a bunch of broken people find varying strains of redemption, either by bottoming out completely or by coming to some baseline understanding of how everybody hurts. There's nothing wrong with the message, exactly, but it's hard to see why a filmmaker needs to synthesize the collected works of Chekhov to produce the same emotional effect as any episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.