The Weather Man
Review Date: 11.15.05
Dylan told us we didn’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind was blowing. If we were living in the Chicago of Nicholas Cage’s new film, The Weather Man, we wouldn’t need the TV weather report, either. Cage is the eponymous non-hero,
Dave Spritz. He works two hours a day at the local TV studio, gesticulating in front of a blank screen and smiling into the camera. As his father reminds him, Dave isn’t a meteorologist, so he doesn’t really understand what he’s talking about, and his forecasts are often wrong. Wrong enough to make him a frequent target of disappointed viewers who festoon his top-drawer duds with Big Gulps, chicken wings and cheap burritos as he walks the mean winter streets of Chicago.
It probably sounds as if I’m getting ready to pan this film. But I’m not. I loved it.
Though my opinion, I’ll admit, is not shared by a majority of critics.
I liked it because the script is beautifully written, and full of surprises. Dave Spritz’ character is revealed slowly, as it would be in real life. It takes time to get to know who he is, where he’s come from, and why he behaves the way he does. He’s not an easy fellow to like, but we sense there’s something genuine at the core of him. But the script is so ‘cagey’, we’re as apt to discover something unpleasant about his character as we are to find a nugget of decency.
I suspect that many will come to The Weather Man looking for a comedy. But the film is more tragic than comic. Though to be sure, it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. Dave Spritz is a man who has grown up in the shadow of a brilliant father, a famous writer who observes the world keenly and dispassionately. So dispassionately that emotional niceties like approval and affection are almost completely absent from his relationship with his son. Which explains some of Dave’s parenting problems.
Dave has two children and they’re coping as best they can. Dave’s trying too, but he’s practically given up on his son, and is focusing his well intended, but feckless attention on his daughter. Convinced that she has an interest in archery, Dave buys her a bow, arrows and lessons. Serendipitously, it’s Dave who discovers the point of it all.
Clueless, disillusioned and self-deluded through much of the film, as Dave backs into a love affair with target practice, the concentration it requires of him begins to affect the way he approaches his life.
If you take a chance on The Weather Man, keep your eyes open for a particularly well wrought scene. It’s a flash back. Dave is recollecting, with regret, a moment in his marriage which he considered crucial, the moment he forgot the tartar sauce. Had he only remembered the tartar sauce, he thinks, things would have been different.
I can’t recall any moment at the movies quite like this one. The director, the script writer, and Cage conspire to re-enact the exact state of mind of a character on a simple errand. If you’ve ever forgotten anything or been distracted by an unanticipated situation, you’ll marvel at the fidelity of Cage’s befuddlement. It’s hilarious and accurate. And sufficient reason to see this film. The Weather Man is smarter, sadder and funnier than most movies that will hit the cineplexes of America. It surprises me that a major studio would take a chance on an odd ball film like this. But I’m glad for it, and recommend it to you.
For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.