Hippo Manchester
November 3, 2005


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Film: The Weather Man (R)
by Amy Diaz

Nicholas Cage wrestles with his own meaninglessness in The Weather Man.

Ah, to be important. To have a job that matters, a family that depends on you, a reason to get up in the morning. Cageís character, David Spritz, has none of these things and is acutely aware of it. Most of us have none of these things at one time or another in our lives but we charge through these periods of bleakness by excusing our deficiencies (Iím still young or Iíve earned a little break) or by ignoring them and focusing instead on trivialities (achieving that perfect weight, redecorating a room). Having genuine meaning in your life is not an easy state to achieve or maintain and the occasional slip is expected.

What do you do, however, when you never had a reason for your existence and see little chance of creating one? What do you do when even trivialities cannot distract you from the black hole that is you?

Well, if youíre David, you take up archery and attempt to improve your fat daughterís (Gemmenne de la Pena) self-image. You make futile attempts at repairing your very broken marriage with your wife Noreen (Hope Davis). You ignore your son Mike (Nicholas Hoult), until he is set upon by a pedophile counselor. And you attempt to get a job on the Bryant Gumbel morning show. 

But all attempts by David Spritz, Chicago television weatherman, to paper over his meaninglessness fail. His daughter seems impenetrable to attempts to bring her out of her pre-teen funk. Though heís good at his job of reading the weather and pantomiming its effects in front of a green screen, heís treated with serious disdain by members of the public, several of whom frequently pelt him with fast food items. And then thereís his dad, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine), Pulitzer Prize-winning author of important books. He has a great legacy and an unspoken air of disappointment at how his son has turned out. And, more than anything, that sense of not being able to live up to his father (or even demonstrate to his father how heís gotten his life together) keeps David from feeling anything but blind panic at the abyss where his lifeís purpose should be.

Moments in The Weather Man capture this sort of sweaty queasiness perfectly. Heís beating up the counselor that hit on his teenage son but thinking primarily about the indignities of being showered with Slurpees and burritos. Heís hearing the news of his fatherís ever-worsening illness but deeply troubled by his daughterís tendency to wear clothes that show off her every bulge. David is a man whose coping mechanisms are failing and who, inexperienced with doing things that are difficult, is desperately looking for the easy way to fix all of his adult problems, hence his sudden interest in archery.

Moments, however, do not a good, cohesive movie make. The woe-is-David scenes are funny but, ultimately, work better one by one than as part of an entire movie. The film wants to have its unsolvable angst and its happy-ish ending too and this pull of trying to make a bleak, quirky movie into a mainstream comedy starts to tear at some of the more weakly stitched-together elements.