The Weatherman: a shot of cold sunshine
I’ve been asked more than a few times why I’m so hard on certain films.
‘“I know Into the Blue wasn’t great, but come on!’”
I get that a lot.
I have a stock response to this complaint, and I’ll share it with you as a preamble to this review:
‘“Think about it,’” I say, looking ominously into the eyes of my disgruntled reader, ‘“If I told people that Into the Blue had any qualities of a good film ‘— which it doesn’t ‘— how could I expect them to take my word for it when I see something that’s actually great?’”
People generally relent when I say this, which I think has more to do with my impenetrable logic than the gun I wave around when I’m arguing.
But as the weeks of 2005 have peeled off the calendar and I’ve seen more and more underwhelming films, I began to wonder if I really am full of as much crap as I’m occasionally told. Are my standards really too high?
Then, last Friday, I saw The Weather Man. In short, this is a film that makes every Cave, every Venom, every Monster-In-Law worth the stifling feelings of hopelessness.The Weather Man, I believe, vindicates my pickiness, because now, dear reader, you and I can sit down and discuss a movie that’s not just ‘good for what it is.’ It’s just plain good, maybe great.
The film tells the story of Dave Spritz: TV meteorologist, son of a Pulitzer-winning novelist (Michael Caine), and estranged husband to a wife (Hope Davis) who somewhat patiently endures his lingering affection. Spritz battles the daily indignities of being a well-paid scapegoat for everyone’s complaints about the weather. When we meet him, he’s trying to win back his wife, and struggling to acclimate his children to their difficult teenage years. Along the way, he’s occasionally pelted by milkshakes, Big Gulps, and soft tacos by viewers who, as one bluntly explains, ‘“don’t like his asshole face.’” He finds solace in honing his archery skills (slings and arrows ‘— very clever), and gunning for a coveted spot as an Al Roker-style weather man on the national morning newscast ‘“Hello America.’”
The film is both comic and tragic, but which side weighs greater depends wholly on your disposition. There are some dark moments, but hidden therein are some tremendously funny ones (including what might be my favorite conversation in any movie, ever, in which Cage and Caine have a lengthy, serious discussion about the nature and social ramifications of camel toe).
I think I loved The Weather Man so much for the same reason I like any good dark comedy ‘— because I agree with the oft-touted premise that comedy and tragedy run along parallel lines, and usually in the same direction. Spritz instantly becomes one of cinema’s great schlubs ‘— you cheer for this guy, though his life is riddled with low moments brought about by his own weakness. Cage’s performance is impressive, calling to mind his dexterous turn as a set of identical twins in Adaptation. Director Gore Verbenski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) understands that Spritz can be a petty little man, but his heart is generally in the right place. If you’ll pardon the absolutism, all honest people probably think of themselves in this way. If you’ve ever felt the shame of having committed a nakedly spiteful and childish act, you’ll see yourself in Dave Spritz.
The script by Steven Conrad is intelligent and emotional, and the cast flawlessly articulates its rhythm. The interaction between Caine and Cage is heavy with the need for acceptance and mutual understanding. Caine, as usual, delivers a stunning performance. The warmth he exuded as Alfred earlier this year in Batman Begins is reigned in, but it obviously still lies somewhere in this character’s grave, critical exterior. Simply stated, it’s easy to imagine why Spritz wants so badly to be accepted by this man, and why he still considers himself a failure despite having a paycheck most people would kill for.
The Weather Man quietly considers the subjective nature of success and the often punishing ties we have to our loved ones. True to its form, its ending isn’t happy or depressing, but it is unwavering in its honesty and empathy. This is far and away one of 2005’s best films.
Not convinced? E-mail Glen Baity at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will personally beg you to go see The Weather Man.