‘Weather Man’ Has a Silver Lining

“The Weather Man,” starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Gore Verbinski, is a rare kind of movie. It’s not going to have a wide appeal, and it falls somewhat short of its ambitions, but it deserves some note for its courage, in an industry where originality is often punished severely.

Cage stars as David Spritz, the weatherman for a local Chicago TV station. He’s divorced (or maybe separated, the movie never makes it clear) from his wife, and trying desperately to connect with his two children, and failing.

Meanwhile, he’s on the shortlist for a national news position, which would mean moving to New York.

Then Spritz finds out that his father, Robert Spritzel (David changed his name for TV) is dying. David feels that he must prove himself to his father in the time he has left.

In a typical Hollywood movie, David would get everything right. His new focus would lead to renewed family harmony. But this movie is different.

David re-dedicates himself to reconciling with his wife, blatantly ignoring that she has moved on. David focuses his attention on his daughter, and completely misses his son’s problems.

While David finds his focus, through his new found hobby of archery, it leads not to self-improvement, but self-realization. He is a self-centered, shallow, short-tempered man.

He’s can’t even be described as an anti-hero, because, ultimately, he isn’t a hero. One of the great braveries of “The Weather Man” is that it doesn’t resort to archetypes. The characters feel real.

Well, usually. David’s father is played by Oscar-winning actor Michael Caine. His dialogue is often very strange, especially when spoken in the awkward and unpleasant American accent he uses.

“The Weather Man” will probably do well its first week at the box office, then sales will drop off quickly when word of mouth spreads that the movie isn’t the quirky comedy promised by the trailers.

“The Weather Man” is a hard movie to get a handle on. I like to think it’s stylistic; David Spritz can’t get a handle on his life. Both the writer and director have fairly short resumes.

Verbinski has had a short but varied career. His best known work was directing The Pirates of the Caribbean (he’s currently directing two sequels simultaneously, Matrix-style), but he also directed The Ring, and 1997’s Mousetrap.

“The Weather Man” is only writer Steve Conrad’s third script, but his first, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway was written over 12 years ago.

Conrad’s script does an impressive job of finding a story-telling style that mimics the lead character’s thought process. Some of the story is told in flashbacks, as some insignificant line of dialogue reminds David of some event, which he finds new meaning in.

Other times, the voice-over narration halts and shifts focus, as he is distracted by anything from a cute girl to an epiphany about the fast food that he is occasionally pelted with.

Despite its shortfalls, The Weather Man is a refreshing movie. Non-formulaic movies are rarer and rarer these days, as Hollywood continues its never-ending transition into a factory town.