The Weather Man (2005) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong language and sexual content
Running Time: 101 min.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Pena, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Rispoli, Gil Bellows, Bryant Gumbel (cameo), Ed McMahon (cameo), Christina Ferrare (cameo), Wolfgang Puck (cameo)
Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay: Steve Conrad
It's Nicolas Cage (National Treasure, Matchstick Men) doing what he does best, play a self-defeating loser, in The Weather Man, a bigger budget Hollywood release that feels like a small, quirky independent comedy. It's a comedy that just barely holds itself together, with the script by Steve Conrad (Wrestling Ernest Hemingway) trying to explore several directions at once. Anyone can tell you that if you try to go in two competing directions at the same time, you're likely to go nowhere at all. In fairness, The Weather Man does get somewhere, although at the end we're not really sure where -- lost, probably. Still, its oddball look at life and the moments of genuinely funny dark humor does make this a worthwhile experience for anyone that typically enjoys offbeat comedies with kooky characters and seemingly random situations.
Cage plays Chicago weatherman Dave Spritz, a local celebrity in his own right, although there are many days where he wishes he were anonymous, and those days are nearly every day now that he is suffering from a near state of depression. He's still in love with his ex-wife (Davis, American Splendor), although she doesn't love him back, and every attempt to reconcile seems to only make matters worse. Dave's kids don't seem to respect him, and they are also getting into all sorts of trouble but Dave seems too far gone in his own problems to try to help. His father (Caine, Bewitched), already quite a load to handle, announces he has lymphoma. The only thing that keeps him going is the hope that he might get back with his family, or possibly hit the big time landing a New York weatherman gig. With Dave's luck, he'll probably dig himself further into the hole.
It's hard to fault The Weather Man for being so uneven in tone, as one of the thematic elements of the film is the unpredictability of the weather. Like the daily forecast, Dave tries to do the best he can in predicting how things will go, but the winds going to go where it wants to go, regardless of how much guesswork and meteorological data on examines. Dave's life follows the same pattern as the weather -- unpredictability. Just when he thinks he has it all figured out, another random occurrence comes in to change the pattern and send him in a different direction.
Director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Ring) isn't exactly known for comedies, and while one might chalk up the awkwardness of The Weather Man to inexperience, from all appearances he seemed to be trying to make an off-putting, eccentric, and very dark comedy from the outset. Never really settling in the right groove for long, there is an eccentric quality to the film that keeps you guessing just where things might lead. Solid performances by the lead performers help keep the highs high and the lows low when they need to be.
Although I'm not ecstatic about The Weather Man, I do think that it makes for an interesting, and sometimes thought-provoking, viewing for people that regularly feast on fare slightly askew. I do feel the need to stress that this isn't a film for everyone; it is a dark comedy with tragic elements, and not a wryly funny comedy in the way the film is marketed on television. It also contains quite a bit of vulgarities (it earns its R rating just on dialogue), and while it looks on the outside like a family comedy, this is really one strictly for the adults and children of a certain level of maturity.
That said, the lack of a tangible point to the film does make it a bit of a frustrating viewing, even if the better elements ultimately make this worth a look. Like the participants in three-legged race in the film, The Weather Man proceeds awkwardly and sometimes stumbles, but it still manages to get back up again to cross the finish line rather than accept defeat.
©2005 Vince Leo