November 3, 2005
The Weather Man (R)
by Amy Diaz
Nicholas Cage wrestles with his own meaninglessness in The Weather Man.
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.
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