Sunday, March 12, 2006

Movie Review: "The Weather Man"

Starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Pena, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Rispoli, Gil Bellows
Directed by Gore Verbinski

With a release date delayed by its studio for several months last year, it’s clear that Paramount executives weren’t really sure about what to make of “The Weather Man.” The movie’s trailer and ads make it look like an unconventional comedy about a dysfunctional family, when in fact it’s much more of a drama with comedic elements about a man struggling to find his true identity amidst a series of family crises.

Nicolas Cage captures just the right amount of inner turmoil as Dave Spritz, a Chicago weather man, who sees his professional star rise, even as the star in his personal life is sinking rapidly. Dave desperately wants the potential career high of the former (a weatherman job on a New York morning show, hosted by Bryant Gumbel) to turn things around in what’s failing in the latter.

However, what’s failing is something that a new job can do little to fix, what with a failed marriage and two troubled children to contend with. Misery just seems to follow Dave around, and is occasionally hurled at him, as passersby pelt the poor sap with a variety of fast foods – presumably because they’re upset about his forecasts.

Dave’s father Robert (Michael Caine) meets his son right after one such drive-by incident and questions why anyone would want to do this. After all, Dave just tells the weather and doesn’t even have a degree in meteorology, Robert not-so-helpfully points out.

Little character jabs like that from his father are also dealt with on a regular basis from Dave, who desperately wants the admiration and respect from Robert, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Caine gives a very good performance by capturing the essence of a disappointed father in just a few scenes. He doesn’t inherently see his son as a failure (although Dave has a way of feeding into that possible perception), just as someone who needs to “knuckle down” to improve his life.

While he also gets good supporting performances from Hope Davis as his frustrated ex-wife, and Gemmenne de la Pena and Nicholas Hoult as his sullen, yet likable children, the majority of the film rests on Cage’s shoulders. Cage has shown the ability to carry pictures playing characters that are difficult to like, such as his Oscar-winning turn in “Leaving Las Vegas.” His portrayal as Dave captures some of that same vibe, as he carries a sad hangdog look through much of the film. Moments where he seems happy come across almost as a force of will, such as his smile as he gets ready for work at the movie’s start. The smile he gives for the mirror simply can’t last for long, before his more natural propensity for sadness overtakes him.

Having such a character as the movie’s center provides a challenge for director Gore Verbinski, as audiences are asked to spend time with a man that few in the movie itself even seem to like or respect. There are certainly moments when you might feel like chucking some food at him yourself, or glove slapping him, as he embarrassingly does to a character in one scene.

But for those who can hang with the movie through some of its more turbulent moments and tonal shifts might just find a man discovering the warm sunshine lies just behind those storm clouds in the sky.
Grade: B
(Rated R for for strong language and sexual content.)

No comments: