The Weather Man
March 12, 2006
Gore Verbinski is a throwback to filmmakers from the classic Hollywood era in the sense that he’s a journeyman director working in a variety of genres: the romantic comedy (The Mexican), horror (The Ring) and action/adventure (Pirates of the Caribbean). He parlayed his success from Pirates that put him in a position to make an offbeat, character-driven piece called The Weather Man (2005). It was a movie that slipped under most people’s radar – is it a comedy or is it a drama? The answer is a little bit of both.
David Spritz (Cage) is a weather man on a local Chicago television station. He gets paid a very nice salary for what is essentially two hours of work and is something of a minor celebrity. He’s also vying for a job on a national T.V. network. His stocky, 12-year-old daughter, Shelly (de la Peña), takes dance classes and smokes while his son, Mike (Hoult) is in drug counseling with a man (Bellows) who may be a pedophile. David’s father (Caine) is a Pulitzer Prize winning author and one gets the feeling that he has been living in his shadow his whole life and yearns for his father’s validation.
David is something of a doormat that is sleepwalking his way through life. Being a T.V. weather man also makes him an easy target, someone to blame when the weather is bad and so occasionally people throw things at him on the street. The Weather Man is an uneven film that features unlikable characters – which isn’t the problem – that aren’t very interesting. It’s a shame because Nicolas Cage turns in a good performance as a guy trying to get himself out of the rut he’s been stuck in for most of his life. His expressive eyes convey a wounded sensibility.
The film tries to be an intelligent take on a dark comedy but it is too repetitive, like showing David’s forgetful nature or his father’s disapproval at what he does for a living. Also, the movie needs more distinctive music as punctuation. The score is a bit on the bland side (kinda like David). The movie’s tone is quiet enough and needs to be supported by a more distinctive score. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) is a great example of using the right kind of music with a variety of songs that successfully establish a melancholy, even wistful mood that The Weather Man is also trying create. Music helps give a movie a personality and that is something that this movie needs.
The Weather Man most closely resembles American Beauty (1999) and About Schmidt (2002) in mood and style – a sombre, very formal look and like the protagonists in those two movies, David is an unhappy person living his life on autopilot. The film has an off-kilter pacing that eschews a traditional plot in favour of being character-driven. While one can certainly admire the film’s intent and the central theme of karma (you be nice to people and they’ll be nice to you) they just didn’t successfully achieve it. The Weather Man is a frustrating film because there are moments that are good, funny and entertaining but there’s not enough of them to make it work as a coherent whole.
“Extended Outlook: The Script.” Verbinski was looking to do something completely different and was attracted to Steven Conrad’s script because it was a non-genre film. Cage was attracted to the honesty of the script while Conrad talks about the origins of the story.
“Forecast: Becoming a Weatherman.” Tom Skilling, the film’s meteorological technical advisor talks about what it is like to do the weather on T.V. He points out that some viewers blame him for the weather as if he had some control over it. Cage talks about the challenge of training for the role.
“Atmospheric Pressure: The Style and Palette” takes a look at the cinematography. Verbinski wanted the “absence of imposed style” for this movie. He did a lot of location scouting to get an idea of how the film should look, going for a monochrome, generic colour palette.
“Relative Humidity: The Characters.” Cage wanted to explore a character that has a smiling, T.V. façade and what their personal life was like. The cast talk about how they approached their respective characters and what motivates them.
“Trade Winds: The Collaboration.” Verbinski talks about how important it is for him to have a core group of regular collaborators that he is able to have a shorthand with. This makes film shoots go much smoother. His long-time editor Craig Wood talks about working with Verbinski. However, the director does like to work with different cinematographers because of what they bring to the table.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.