The Weather Man - Online Review

'Cage excels as the slightly deluded, occasionally maniacal Spritz, beautifully judging when he needs to be contemplatively exacting in his dismissals or springingly tough in his self-analysing narration'

If you're in the UK, it's worth noting that the good ol' BBC have started doing a fairly nifty thing with their iPlayer. Not only can you now catch up on any good TV you may have missed but certain films shown during the week can also be watched again for up to a week afterwards. Last week Apocalypto was made available and this week Gore Verbinski's The Weather Man was there for all to sit on the sofa and relax to at their convenience.

I say 'relax to' when I actually mean quite the opposite. The Weather Man is certainly not a film you can sit there and relax to, in much the same way as you never really relax during American Beauty (which this has echoes of) or The Office. Much like Mendes' Oscar-winner, Gore Verbinski's film focuses on Nicholas Cage's titular weather forecaster at the apex of his life. Unlike Lester Burnham, Cage's David Spritz isn't quite having a mid-life crisis, rather, he is having to cope with a variety of crises that just so happen to befall him as the potential for a new and lucrative job in New York emerges. Most notably his successful father (Michael Caine) needs but will not ask for his support during a time of illness while feeling quite able to dish out advice on Spritz' dysfunctional children (Nicholas Hoult and Gemmenne de la Pena). Spritz' relationship with them is further complicated by his still-burning but awkward love for his ex-wife (Hope Davis) who has now moved on to a new man (Michael Rispoli).

To start with the good; there are bits of The Weather Man that are very good indeed. Cage excels as the slightly deluded, occasionally maniacal Spritz, beautifully judging when he needs to be contemplatively exacting in his dismissals or springingly tough in his self-analysing narration. Cage really embodies the role and I completely believed him as the career professional and awkward Dad, trying to live up to his own Father's exacting standards and achievements. He's aided substantially by writer Steve Conrad who gives Spritz the kind of dead-pan wit in voice over that he can only dream of in real-life ('if you do not want your father to think you are a silly fuck, do not go around slapping people with gloves. Unless you are a medieval knight'). The combined effect is one in which we are clear that everything we see of Spritz on screen isn't the entire truth but neither is everything he thinks or says about himself during the context of the film.

Despite the good points however some of The Weather Man is rendered hopelessly ineffective by some cluttered and messy direction. Verbinski shows in numerous scenes that he knows what he's doing and that, somewhere, there's a great film here very close to showing itself. But in others he misses the point entirely and veers off into warm cosy family drama territory. Witness the scene where Spritz takes his daughter ice-skating. She falls over. She's hurt. Spritz makes her continue so she can feel like a winner when she finishes. But she doesn't. Because she isn't and she's hurt.

The point is to show Spritz' muddled view on fatherhood but it doesn't need to be there; we get from other more subtle features of the film that he has this view, that his family is currently broken, that, more to the point, he is broken - we don't need these facts ladled on with a clumsy desert spoon, aping the family-friendly dramas of Sunday afternoons which The Weather Man certainly isn't.

To his credit, Verbinski avoids two obvious endings which proffer themselves at various moments towards the film's conclusion (once at a family gathering, once when Spritz parks his car in a snow covered lot). The end point of The Weather Man is natural, rather than revelatory and it fits perfectly with nearly everything that has gone before it. It's just a shame that the bits it doesn't fit with don't have a place in a film which sets its tone at a completely different level. Consider yourself warned that this level is quite high comedy and in places extremely funny but also occasionally cringe worthy in the extreme. If you watch the painstaking scenes about Spritz' daughter's nickname on your first date or with your parents I suspect you may squirm in your seat slightly. You have been warned.

Look further...

'has as much to recommend it as a wet Bank Holiday weekend in Rhyl during an umbrella famine' - Empire (Simon Braund), 2*

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