The Weather Man Review
Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is a weather man on a local news station in Chicago, well known for the Spritz Nipper but a target for passing motorists and their unwanted fast food, which, Spritz reckons, they'd rather chuck than finish eating. Other than the occasional Big Gulp thrown at him, Dave is in fine professional fettle, earning great money for a job that demands only two hours of his time a day, neither one of which concerns meteorology as he has a backroom boffin for that. Life is set to get even better when he's approached by Hello America, which would give him a national spot on the networks but which he would have to move to New York to take up.
And therein lies the problem - his personal life, whilst not a disaster, is certainly not short of a problem or two. His father, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine) has been given a bleak outlook by his doctor unless he responds well to clinical trials. Otherwise, he's divorced from Noreen (Hope Davis) but their relationship has remained at a low ebb - there's no trust between them and she's met Russ, who's playing more of a part in his children's lives than he is. Finally, his children, Mike (Nicholas Hoult)and Shelly (Gemmenne de la Pena), have troubles of their own - one is in rehab whilst the other is overweight, unhappy and is being bullied at school. In the midst of all this, Dave tries to find some meaning in his life and to ensure that his family, although he'll be miles away from them, will
I don't know quite where the idea of the mid-life crisis came from - it may have been that of some spectacularly useless men who in recognising that the female menopause was a very real medical condition came up with a bout of despondency as the male equivalent. Again, though, it may have been a feminist attempt to find a reason to the number of middle-aged men involved in such ridiculous habits as buying Porsches, sporting hair weaves, choosing to wear thongs over boxers and wearing three-quarter-length trousers at the first sight of summer. In less enlightened times, men such as these would have been driven out of their villages so as not to bring shame on their families but today, we humour them with such trivialities as convertible Volvos, Grecian hair dye and films such as this, which is convinced that not only is the mid-life crisis tangible but that we ought to care about the self-pitying, whining ninnies who, come their fiftieth birthday enter a fit of misery that, sadly, isn't quite severe enough to have them taking to their bath with their Beckham-promoted Mach 3 razor.
No, if anything life is made up of a string of minor crises but which one quickly recovers from - having never been able to play Black Dog, I've known for years that I'll never be the next Jimmy Page whilst I've long accepted that I'll never own a Lamborghini - and although the various crises visited upon Dave Spritz may coincidental, that's not the impression given by the film. The Weather Man is concerned with painting its central character as suffering from a mid-life crisis, with Spritz sensing that he's not done enough in his life and that his two children, as screwed-up as they are, are nothing to be particularly proud of. As with anyone feeling inadequate, Spritz looks for a better job, a relationship that will work, something with which to pass the time and to write a book but finds nothing. When he looks at his father, he sees himself as a failure. When he looks at his kids and sees how dysfunctional they are, he sees his own failings as a parent. And every time he's struck by a Hot Apple Pie from McDonalds, he thinks that Chicago is a hick town and that his job is the kind that makes people think that they ought to throw fast food at him. As he sees it, they wouldn't throw a taco at him were he on national television and, most disappointing of all, he appears to agree with them.
None of which endears me to Dave Spritz and nor, I suspect, will it you either. I do feel sorry for his father, though, as played by Michael Caine who bears the mark of someone who, for many years, was devoted only to his writing and when he hears his that his own time is limited, he snaps out of it and re-engages with life. Thereafter, almost everything shocks him - he can't quite believe that anyone would verbally abuse a twelve-year-old girl by calling her Camel-Toe, he can't understand why people throw milkshakes at his son and he can't see why Dave Spritz compares him to Bob Seger's Like A Rock. He doesn't even comprehend society's use of language, asking his son what he current obsession with 'sucking, chucking and fucking' is about.
Unlike his father, though, Dave Spritz doesn't quite engage with life, more that he sees it going to shit and doesn't know how to prevent it getting worse. He's not a bad son, husband nor father but what's crucifying him is that he thinks he is. Spritz thinks that by praising his daughter she'll be encouraged and will be happier at ballet and at archery but when ice-skating, his desire to see her stick at something only leaves her with a pulled muscle and, to the disappointment of his ex-wife, leaving his daughter home with her left leg in plaster. Again, his son hasn't turned out bad but Spritz can't quite see this. The Weather Man asks us to feel sorry for Spritz as he feels his life spiraling out of control but, instead, we only see someone full of self-pity whose occasional attempts to make things better are only fleeting.
Where the film works is in warning us that a life of inaction is not a life that's worth living. Spritz works only two hours a day but doesn't fill the rest of the day with very much and nor does his family. His daughter is not sufficiently friendly with anyone to have a social life whilst his son just hangs out at the mall. His wife, though only sketched as a character, doesn't appear to do anything outside of raising her children and, apparently as a result of this, their marriage breaks down over Spritz's inability to remember to the tartar sauce whilst picking up a takeaway. In an age where we are more aware of how to eat more healthily, humanity is also more obese than ever before, largely through eating too much and doing too little and one reading of The Weather Man suggests that it's a warning against doing nothing with Spritz's life only coming together when he takes up archery as a way to give his life focus and only enjoying it when he scores a clean bullseye in a park overlooking Lake Michigan.
But I don't think the film is concerned with this, more that it wants to present Dave Spritz as a loser who's being so pounded by such a series of personal disasters that he ought to have our sympathy. What it ends up being, though, is a rather dull family drama and an intensely slow-moving one at that. Having thought that an hour or so had passed, I was disappointed to see that I was only thirty-five minutes in to the film. Never mind Spritz, I could feel my own life slipping away during the watching of The Weather Man and might well have appreciated someone throwing a warm taco at me, if only to create a moment of excitement. The Weather Man appears to aim for depth - I think we're meant to root for Spritz from the moment when he takes up archery and when we first see the flicker of a smile on Shelly's lips - but director Verbinski appears to confuse being miserable with being clever and this is a very, very miserable film indeed.
Set in a bleak Chicago winter, with the city under an almost permanent blanket of snow, The Weather Man could have been made it to disc looking much better than it does here with a picture that errs on being softer than one might expect of it. Being set in a chilly Chicago and on various frozen landscapes, it would have been better had The Weather Man had a sharper image but too much of it as a slightly soft look to it. Colours and brightness are good, though, but there's a small amount of distortion around characters, which leaves this as being good but, otherwise, not particularly special.
The default audio selection, Dolby Digital 5.1, isn't bad but is largely anonymous with the rear channels being used more for ambient effects. That's not exactly a surprise given that this is a film that's heavy on talk and light on action but there's little difference between the 5.1 Surround and the 2.0 Pro Logic Surround tracks. Finally, there are English, Spanish and French subtitles, which are carried over to the extras with the exception of the Theatrical Trailer.
One glance at the titles of these special features will either have you thinking how very clever they've been or will have you groaning at the lack of subtlety to it all. One will have you in a minority, the other not. Either way, they amount to a making-of that's been subdivided into the following five sections.
Extended Outlook: The Script (10m06s): Screenwriter Steve Conrad is, unsurprisingly, the main interviewee in this feature in which he discusses the real-life influences on his script including hiding in the back seat of a car as his friends threw milkshakes at a weather man doing a spot on a sidewalk. Nicolas Cage and Gore Verbinski are also on hand to talk about the script, coming to the somewhat surprising conclusion that the first draft they were presented with wasn't actually very good before getting Conrad to knock it into shape. He may not have been entirely successful.
Forecast: Becoming A Weatherman (5m45s): As with there being a feature on the script, so is there one on Nicolas Cage and unfortunately not how one becomes the John Kettley of their particular region. Thankfully, there's the surprise of having a real-life weather man, Tom Skilling, on hand to explain how it is a science and how he's never been struck by anything. He defends his profession well, though, before Cage comes back to talk about his taking on of the role.
Atmospheric Pressure: The Style And Palette (9m23s): I don't doubt that the Director Of Photography has a vital job on the set but this feature, being one that examines the efforts of Phedon Papamichael, is awfully dull. His conclusion is that there is no particular look to the film that was arrived at deliberately, more than he and Gore Verbinski came upon it by accident simply by finding shots and locations that they wanted to include in the film. Not for a second do I believe him though.
Relative Humidity: The Characters (19m44s): It's only fitting that in a character-driven piece such as this that the characters are awarded the greatest amount of time amongst the extras on the disc. All of the main cast are interviewed here with the exception on Gil Bellows and they explain the motivation behind their characters but given how each one only serves the life story of Dave Spritz, their opinions are only relative to those of Nicolas Cage who is the main contributor here.
Trade Winds: The Collaboration (15m40s): And so this series of features ends with everyone coming together on set to produce the film. Therefore, we hear, once again, from producer Todd Black, editor Craig Wood, DoP Phedon Papamichael and costume designer Penny Rose as The Weather Man goes from a location shoot to post-production and into cinemas.
Theatrical Trailer (2m33s): Beginning with it showing all of the terrible things that are happening in his life - the being struck by fast food, being called an asshole by a man sat at home and forgetting the tartar sauce - this builds to the suggestion that there is an epiphany in Dave Spritz's life, one that is not realised in the finished film.
I confess that I didn't much care for anyone in this film with the exception of Michael Caine's Robert Spritzel, who has no small amount of dignity and the honour of being compared to Bob Seger's Like A Rock. The rest are hysterical and easily-excited characters but unless you take particular pleasure in being shrieked at by the miseries of modern life, there's not a lot to enjoy here. No, it's not depressing and nor is it particularly bleak, more that it's not very endearing. Keeping to the spirit of the titles of the extras, The Weather Man is a bright, crisp October afternoon than a dismal and dreary February evening, when what little joy there is is easily snuffed out by the early setting of the sun. With Nicolas Cage looking pained in the film's first few minutes, his sun sets early indeed.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 06:18:40