The Weather Man flung me down, down, down into a ring of dire. Not since Leaving Las Vegas has a movie put me in such a deep funk. Nicolas Cage, winner of a well-deserved Oscar for that depressing film, also stars here as David Spritz, a popular Chicago TV weather man who looks calm and charming while performing on the small screen, but whose real life is filled with inner and outer turbulence.
David doesn’t get the respect he desires from his dignified father (Michael Caine), a Pulitzer Prize winner; his ex-wife (Hope Davis) can’t stand him; his son (Nicholas Hoult) is in rehab; and his unhappy daughter (Gemmenne De la Pena) responds to him with very little enthusiasm. Making matters worse, some irate viewers throw fast food items at him when he walks down the street. In Chicago, the citizens take their weather seriously!
The only bright spot in David’s life involves the possibility of receiving an offer from “Hello America,” a national TV show starring Bryant Gumbel. But a big job like that would mean moving away from his family at a time when his father (Michael Caine) has been diagnosed with cancer. Much soul-searching and a few flashback guilt trips ensue. Watching David continually pick at the scabs of his emotional wounds soon becomes almost too much to bear. Why can’t this man who earns $240,000 per year for working only two hours a day snap out of his melancholy?
Cage -- who believes the flaws in the weather man’s character all stem from a deep love of his family -- says, “In David’s failures and mistakes, you see a man who is really trying to do his best, and it all comes from a good place -- from love,”
Maybe so, but you also see a jerk. He even insults his fans when they ask for an autograph. (SPOILER ALERT) Worse yet, David fails to honor his ex-wife’s (Hope Davis) trust during a counseling session. Considering how much he wants a reconciliation, such an action seems unreasonable for this character.
Unhappiness fills the screen during almost all of The Weather Man‘s running time -- with the exception of a short New York shopping trip David and his daughter enjoy. But screenwriter Steve Conrad describes the film as “a fun look at the serious things we all have in our lives.”
Where’s the fun? Certainly not in the brooding performances, although Cage and the usually superb Caine are extremely believable in their poignant father/son moments together. Commenting on Caine’s contribution to the film, director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) explains, “Michael has the ability to carry nobility without being cold. Because of the nature of how brilliant his character is, that’s extremely important.” About Cage, Verbinski says, “The role calls for someone who can bring pathos and humor into his performance and Nic’s absolutely brilliant at that.” Unfortunately, Caine’s character sometimes displays a lack of warmth here, and Cage does such an excellent job of projecting hopelessness that his attempts at humor fall flat during most of his scenes.
The look of this movie also contributes to a feeling of despair. From its opening shot of ice floes on the Chicago River to the rain-soaked funeral during the last part of the movie, The Weather Man exudes a cold and dreary atmosphere.
“Easy doesn’t enter into grownup life,” David’s father tells him. Easy doesn’t enter into watching The Weather Man either.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated “R” for strong language and sexual content.)