The Weather Man

When thick chunks of ice turn Lake Michigan into a frozen wasteland, and blankets of snow pummel the Chicago pavement, everyone turns to local weatherman Dave Spritz. What Spritz does isn’t rocket science. The people of Chicago know it’s cold and miserable. Spritz, as his Pulitzer-prize winning author father reminds him, just reads the weather. He doesn’t create it, and quite frankly, doesn’t understand it.


That doesn’t stop people from throwing stuff at him: Big Gulps, Shakes, Burritos. Always fast food. People need to take their misery out on someone, so why not the guy who reminds them day after day it’s going to be cold and wet? Who does the weatherman turn to when he’s miserable?

Welcome to the wobbly world of Dave Spritz (formerly Spritzel, changed for television), a man who appears to have everything in life but the one things he wants most: acceptance. He doesn’t get it from the people on the street (his anger eventually alienates his fans), he doesn’t get it from his father, and believes his estranged wife is turning their kids against him.

The Weather Man isn’t exactly mainstream entertainment, it has something much more important on it’s mind. I doubt audiences will flock to see what amounts to the emotional growth of a man who has everything except gratitude. Dave Spritz isn’t so much a victim of the times as he is a victim of his own value system. He has a dream job, a nice car, decent place to live, and supports his ex-wife Noreen (Hope Davis), son Mike (Nicholas Hoult), and overweight daughter Shelly (Gemmenne de la Pena).

Instead of being able to enjoy what he has, Dave regrets what he’s missing. Even though his wife has moved on and lives with another man, he wants them to attend couple’s counseling. He desperately wants his father’s approval, even when Robert (Michael Caine) literally sits on Dave’s dream job becoming the weatherman for the national feed of Hello America. Dave wants his kids back, especially when Noreen overreacts after finding Mike with a joint and sentences him to rehab.

Anyone who has ever had to struggle to put food on the table or buy clothes for the kids will find most of Dave’s inner turmoil artificial. How dare someone with so much feel like a loser. That’s the point. Dave is a loser because he feels like a loser. He feels like his life is out of control, barely capable of holding on to his own emotions much less sharing in those of the people he loves.

Nicolas Cage is excellent as the sad sack navigating an early mid-life crisis. With his made-for-television haircut and hangdog expression, Cage perfectly manufactures the appearance of a man with a lot on his mind. Watching Dave go from selfish to selfless allows us to invest in the character even when his actions border on irredeemable. Steve Conrad’s screenplay isn’t littered with melodrama and jokes. If anything The Weather Man is as unexpected as a spring shower. From the first frame it’s impossible to tell where this film headed. Cage is at his best playing characters with a broken moral compass (Leaving Las Vegas, Lord of War, Adaptation), and Dave Spritz falls into that category.

More than anything, The Weather Man is about family dynamic, how we see ourselves as sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, and most important to Dave, provider. He knows he has a good thing, but measures his family’s acceptance and love by his success. Forget he pulls down a salary north of $400,000, plus appearances. Dave dreams with more money and fame his family, especially his father, will treasure him even more.

He’s wrong. When Robert arrives with bad news, Dave has mixed feelings. He feels sadness, but hopes if he can grab the golden ring before it’s too late, he’ll gain his father’s approval. The father-son relationship is what makes The Weather Man so special. Like Field of Dreams, we know the only way for Dave to comfort his father is to heal himself. You’ll never be able to listen to Bob Seger’s Like a Rock again without shedding a tear.

Which is why I loved The Weather Man. It’s what they used to call the whole enchilada, a little of everything rolled into a delicious feast touching on every emotion. One moment you’re laughing, the next you’re in tears. Most of the time director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) keeps us engaged in the everyday lives of the characters, the little observations which make these people real.

Caine deserves an Oscar-nomination as Robert, a writer who achieved extraordinary success at an early age, and who always has the right words on the tip of his tongue. Robert is no-nonsense, saying what needs to be said, but capable of wearing his heart on his sleeve. The conversations between father and son are insightful, honest, and poignant. Oh yeah, and frequently hilarious, as Robert chimes in on Shelly’s tight pants, tossing about sexual nicknames with absolute innocence. The more this particular phrase is repeated the funnier it gets.

Hope Davis is inviting as Noreen, who hopes the best for Dave but needs to move on with her life. There’s a glimmer of hope in Noreen’s eyes as she watches Dave grow, but it’s not a schoolgirl crush reborn. She’s just happy to see him moving on. Less happy are Mike and Shelly, who left to their own devices have become strangers to their parents. Both Hoult and Pena deliver adult performances, especially Pena as the outcast Shelly. Her initial fascination with archery (actually hunting, but that’s another story) opens the door for one of Conrad’s most unpredictable side trips.

The Weather Man won’t turn cloudy skies blue, but it will chase your blues away.

Stormy Weather ManFilm Sprinkles On Liberal Dose of RealityThe Weather Man

Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Pena, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Rispoli, Gil Bellows. Directed by Gore Verbinski. Rated R. 100 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $10.00



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