The Weather Man
Give it up for Nick Cage; the man plays a career loser really, really well. “The Weather Man” has certain pluck in its comedy and an endearing amount of pathos in its story of a middle-aged man attempting to make something of the bottomless pit of his life, and Cage offers up a nuanced, cogent character that echoes the majority of our lives to small degrees. But – and I hate to say this – I’m not thrilled with the reality of having spent two hours in the ever-changing winds of weatherman Dave Spritz’s life, only to have the picture’s morality spelled out in these terms: life sucks – get over it. It’s mildly funny and superbly acted, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get more depressing than this.
Spritz is a weatherman – not a meteorologist, mind you, just a guy who stands in front of the green screen and grins while he passes on wild guesses at the imminent weather of Chicago. But the weather – and his life – don’t ever seem to cooperate with poor David. Even as his professional career is moving in the right direction, his marriage has fallen apart and his father (played so very well by Michael Caine) has been given an unfortunate medical prognosis. Moreover, his children are equally distressing, his daughter an overweight underachiever and his son a near-derelict whose smile attracts his counselor, leading to some truly distasteful come-ons.
Yes, it’s a sucky-life for poor David, who shows increasing resistance to the rain cloud following his every move to varying effects – some good, some bad. Cage delivers perhaps the most baring performance of his life – bad haircut and all – and he is ably supported by Caine and Hope Davis, who plays his wife. There are appreciable moments, many of them symbolic in the hobby David picks up midway through the film: archery. As he targets the center of his own being, the film quickens to a resolution that is, if not balanced, at least sound.
What is most enigmatic about “The Weather Man” is the pedigree of its creative team. Gore Verbinski sheds the tremendous joy of “The Pirates of the Caribbean” for a project steeped in emotional deadlock; and Hans Zimmer has penned some of Hollywood’s most memorable music, and here utilizes percussive beats to echo David’s frayed, desperate emotions – but man, it gets on the nerves. It’s difficult to claim that this team has together created a world for “The Weatherman” that isn’t dramatically effective in unsettling its audience, and perhaps – as with many independent films – that was its goal.
To wit, the ritual moments are here: love and death, adversity and defiance. Unfortunately, there’s more death and adversity than love and defiance, and the film’s central thesis – delivered by Michael Caine in a buildup handled with all the delicacy of a big club beating a seal pup – expresses this life via profanity. “The Weather Man” is well constructed, but if I want to have my mood shredded, I’d rather self-inflict pain; at least they say that builds character.