TheWeather Man is clearly a transitional work for director Gore Verbinski, a modestly budgeted, comically inflected dramamore alert to writing, character detail and social portrait than the stylisedvisual flamboyance and mannered comic performances of the likes of
Starring Nicolas Cage as aman attempting to reconcile the emotional wreckage left by his professionalambitions, the movie plays like a less toxic American Beauty, yielding a bittersweet lament for and critique of"American accomplishment".
It is by far the mostdownbeat, visually and emotionally, of Verbinski'swork, and certainly marks a complicated marketing sell for Paramount. That ithas floated around the distributor's release schedule suggests an uncertaintyin how to properly position the title.
But with Verbinski'sname, Conrad's highly regarded script and the excellent work of Cage, Michael Caine and Hope Davis, the movie should play well in upscalecities and perform even better in ancillary markets. The Weather Man opens in the US on Oct 28, having closed theChicago International Film festival the night before.
From the evocative openingshot of shards of ice floating atop Lake Michigan, the movie is studded withimages of entrapment and closure.
Conrad's sardonic internalmonologues, delivered by Cage in voiceover, establish the discordant, anxioustone. Unfolding in a permanently grey, bleak Chicago winter, the drama revolvesaround the conflict tearing apart Dave Spritz (Cage).
He's the eponymous localChicago TV weatherman whose wealth, social comfort and professionalrespectability prove disastrously inadequate when compared to his largerfailings as a disappointed son and alienated father and husband.
In the Oedipal shapedconflict, Spritz remains gallingly needy in gainingthe approval of his father, Robert (Caine), aPulitzer Prize-winning novelist. Additionally, the dissolution of his marriageto Noreen (Davis) has left him bitter, defensive and withdrawn. He is alsoutterly unable to connect emotionally with his sullen, morose 12-year-olddaughter Shelly (Pena) or detached, wary 15-year-old son Mike (Hoult, of About A Boy).
At the moment of hisgreatest professional fortune, given an opportunity to work at a networkmorning news programme, he must confront further difficulties and emotionalentanglements involving his father's health, his unresolved rage for his wifeand disturbing incidents of paedophilia and emotional taunting impacting hiskids.
Though it is lessreactionary and cynical than AmericanBeauty, The Weather Man is a rarestudio film that openly questions the personal and social costs of success. Itends not with an uplifting sense of knowledge gained though something far moreambiguous and disquieting, a permanent feeling of adjustment and compromise.
The script's comic attentionto the petty slights and minor humiliations has a violent corollary in thenumber of objects (shakes, soft drinks and discarded fast food) hurled at Spritz by disgruntled viewers aggrieved by his plastictelevision image or the inaccuracy of his forecasts.
Cage locates the rightbalance of narcissism and wounding self-pity, while the exquisite Davis is anexcellent comic foil. Adapting a flat Midwestern accent, Caineis mercilessly direct and cruelly on target in his observations.
Verbinski deftly visualises the sense of pause and regretfound in Conrad's script. Photographed by talented cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, the moviefrequently captures Cage isolated against a flat, sterile environment or shotfrom above to emphasise his profound suffering.
William S Beasley
James S Levine
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