Monday, August 1, 2011

The Weather Man (2005)

"'Easy' doesn't enter into grown-up life...."

"That was refreshing. I'm refreshed. .... I'm refreshing."

- Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage) has fame and wealth as Chicago's weather man but lives a very unsatisfying life. He makes $240,000 dollars a year ("plus appearances - which are, you know, not comfortable for me....but lucrative.") for putting in only a few hours of work every day - but money ain't everything. Dave is an awkward person: he does not handle his celebrity well, he does not communicate well in social situations, he does not know how to handle tough circumstances - and, well, people throw food at him. Unhappily divorced, out of touch with his kids and lost in the shadow of his Pulitzer Prize-winning father, Dave Spritz is unhappy.... with who he is and what he has done with his life. Making an already unhappy person even unhappier, life throws him a few curve balls all at once in just about every avenue of life....

Director Gore Verbinski (the first three Pirates Of The Caribbean films and The Ring (2001)) crafts The Weather Man (2005) brilliantly (it is easily his best work as a director to date). Squished in between Verbinski's first and second acts of his epic and action-packed Pirates Of The Caribbean films, this film is a clear example of Verbinski's ability to translate an intimate, character-centered story very well on screen. The film just looks great. Sideways (2004) cinematographer Phedon Papamichael also colors the film wonderfully; Chicago has never looked so chilled and pastoral. A great score from Hans Zimmer (and team - including Verbinski himself on guitar) makes the film even better.

However, the acting found throughout is also one of the finest aspects of The Weather Man (2005). Nicolas Cage has been in some cinematic duds in the past but he is truly spectacular in this film. Cage portrays this awkward weather man phenomenally, garnering laughs as well as sympathy, in what is easily his best performance. Michael Caine also steps in with a touching supporting performance as Dave's father Robert Spritzel, delivering a very stern and heartfelt performance - and other supporters Hope Davis, Nicholas Hoult, and especially Gemmenne de la Peña and are great as well with memorable turns.

A well-made and funny film about accepting what live brings us and who we are, The Weather Man is a very poignant film. Dave has screwed up in life and is not always a nice guy - but the audience really feels for him. Still, it is also hard not to laugh at Dave's hardships. The Weather Man is a very effective dark comedy (and when is it not funny just to see people get hit with food?). The film's screenplay is one of the best written in years; a character-centered, and very moving main plot with cutting and extremely funny dialogue. Dave's plight hits home with a lot of contemporary viewers - especially, I think, males (especially introverts, like me) - as we can identify with Dave's lack of confidence in himself and his family problems that embody the common breakdown of the American family unit that we fight to preserve.

The Weather Man has become one of those tragedies of movies: being a brilliant but unappreciated film. Not your traditional Indie or Hollywood comedy, it seems to me that few know what how to react to this film. An odd and dreary but also funny and moving film, few have the excellent mix of emotion, humor, and style that is The Weather Man.

CBC Rating: 10/10

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