The Weather Man
directed by Gore Verbinski
(Paramount, 2005)

I've never been much of a Nicholas Cage fan, but his performance in The Weather Man has finally put him over the top. From now on, I am a Cage fan. He turns in a marvelous, make-it-or-break-it performance in this film. Only a handful of actors could have made The Weather Man work. It's an unusual film that doesn't really fit into any genre out there -- I certainly wouldn't think of it in terms of a comedy. There's a real indie, certainly dramatic, feel to this whole production; depressing and unsettling, it affects the viewer in an odd, unique way. I doubt anyone walked out of a theater screening of the film laughing or even talking very much -- except for those complaining about how boring the whole thing was. In all truth, this is a film that will disappoint a significant minority of viewers. On the other hand, I think many will agree with me that Weather Man achieves a really weird level of brilliance.

This is a hard film to describe. None of the official or editorial plot summaries come close to capturing the atmosphere and emotional resonance of what takes place. Dave Spritz (Cage) is the very epitome of the angst-ridden adult, a man simply writhing in quiet desperation. None of his dreams have come true, he feels like a total disappointment to his famous author of a father (Michael Caine), he's estranged from his ex-wife (Hope Davis) and increasingly out of touch with his two children, and he just can't seem to get himself together, no matter how hard he tries. All he has right now (besides an extremely good salary for a weather man who never studied meteorology) is a long shot chance to turn things around -- he's being considered for the job of weather man on the nationally syndicated morning show Hello, America.

You have to commiserate with this guy. Life throws a lot of things at us, but it literally throws things at Dave -- soft drinks, food, etc. (Of course, if he hadn't been driving around freezing Chicago with his window down, he never would have been hit by that Big Gulp drink.) On top of that, he just can't connect with his kids. His son has just gotten out of rehab and ends up getting himself into a rather disgusting predicament with one of his counselors (Ally McBeal's Gil Bellows). His daughter is a 12-year-old, overweight smoker dealing with a mean nickname she earned by the way she wears her clothes (and it's something I could have done without seeing, let me tell you). His ex-wife hates him, while his Pulitzer Prize-winning father discovers he has cancer. It is his dad's illness that really galvanizes Dave to try and put things right again -- reconciling with his wife, being there for his vulnerable children, getting that big job in New York and finally doing something to make his father proud. Real life just doesn't work like that, however -- and Dave has a hard time dealing with all the burdens that keep falling upon his shoulders. Sometimes, he's all but paralyzed with angst, but all of those pent-up emotions can come hurtling out at times, even over one of the little things in life. He can really be quite emotionally unbalanced, but he never stops trying to change things. Don't expect a "they all lived happily ever after" ending to this story; to its credit, Weather Man doesn't abandon realism in the film's final moments.

What makes The Weather Man a great movie, though, is Caine's remarkable performance as Dave's dad. Best supporting actor awards were created for exactly this kind of performance. Without Caine, Weather Man is just dark, unusual and fascinating; with him, it's a surprisingly emotional experience. This is one of the most memorable and impressive films of the year.

by Daniel Jolley
7 October 2006

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