Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Weather Man

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Most movies follow fairly predictable plots. You can almost tell what the characters are going to do, what will happen next, and sit smugly knowing that things are going to be resolved, that everything will turn out alright, and that the heroes will be vindicated in the end. The Weather Man is not that type of movie.

In fact, you can't tell what will happen next. It could be good or bad, but in this case, things always get worse. And when you think you finally reached the turning point where things ought to be getting better, guess again. This thing is depressing to watch, but in a good way.

Nicholas Cage is David Spritz - a TV Weather Man. On the surface, it looks like he's doing very well for himself. He's a well known TV personality, has that charm on camera, earns big bucks, gets to have sex with lots of attractive women, and is on target to get a potential six-figure income as the weather guy in the country's number one syndicated morning show, Hello America. He's living the American dream, but there's a problem.

Despite all his successes, his personal life is in shambles. His ex-wife hates him. His kids have no affection for him. He feels like a failure when he compares himself to his father, a world-renowned writer played by Michael Caine. He gets no respect from strangers either, as he is frequently gets fast food and beverages thrown at him on the street. Nobody likes the weather man.

Spritz tries desperately to make things better. He takes his daughter to the company Christmas party, where things go wrong. He takes her out for archery lessons but there's no warmth in their father-daughter relationship. To make things worse, his son is befriended by a pedophile, which Spritz is unaware of. He can't even get things right in his father's "live funeral" (a make-believe funeral you stage with loved ones while the person is alive).

It's like watching a horror movie. I wanted Spritz to win, even just a little. The character is shallow, weak, and oftentimes a jerk, but I found that I still wanted to root for him to succeed. There's a point in the film where he realizes exactly the type of person he is, and I think this is the most powerful point in the movie.

In a way, it's also a film about the modern ills of western society. You can be well off materially, have all the physical comforts, and have all the external trappings of success, yet be very unhappy. One of the dilemmas that Cage's character faces is how his professional success contrasts with his failures in personal life and relationships.

There were some things about this film that I felt were flaws. For one, I couldn't figure out whether Michael Caine's character was british or not. He kind of had a british accent, yet he was supposed to be the father of Nicholas Cage's character who was American. To add to the confusion, Cage's son played by Brit Nicholas Hoult, who was Marcus in About a Boy, also seemed very British. Were Caine and Hoult supposed to be Americans, or were they there to show that Cage's family had some British roots? Though not relevant to the story, it distracted me enough as they just didn't feel as if the three males from different generations were related to one another. Poor casting in my opinion.

Another thing was that I got the impression that this was a comedy, or at least a dark comedy. It's not. In fact I think this plays more like a modern day tragedy. I watched this with the wrong expectations. Perhaps that was the intent of the filmmakers, but it made it more painful to watch for me.

This movie won't make you feel good and will make you probably more depressed after watching it. But I think that's its main purpose. You'll also think of how much your own life either resembles or contrasts with the quiet desperation of David Spritz.

Rating: 3/5 * * *
How are you like the weather man?

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