Wednesday, November 09, 2005

REVIEW: The Weather Man

"The Weather Man" is catching a good deal of flack from audiences and critics for not being what they expected. Or, more accurately, what they felt it was marketed as. They aren't entirely without a point.

While it would be an exaggeration to say that "The Weather Man" is using completely misleading advertisements, one can certainly be forgiven for expecting a different film. The trailers, through use of clever editing and music, have been selling the film as a "quirky" comedy about a loser putting his life back together. If you've seen said trailer, you're doubtlessly pretty sure that you know the basic idea: Sad-sack local weather man David Spritz (Nicholas Cage) is losing his family and his sanity, but with some hard work, determination and a few pearls of sage wisdom from his wise father (Michael Caine) he'll be able to set his life comedically back in order. It'll be an offbeat Fall-style remix about growing up and achieving your dreams.

Yes, thats what most people are probably thinking when they buy tickets for "The Weather Man," and so I suppose it's within reason that they be dissapointed when the find it to be something else entirely. But it's also within reason that others are glad about it, finding it to be something a bit more interesting than they had anticipated. You may gather that I fall into the later camp.

The film is not a quirky comedy about achieving your dreams, but David Spritz seems to think that it is... and thats the problem. He can't get his act together, he can't finish anything he starts, he's the sort of local celebrity who has to frequently weigh whether or not the professional perk of bedding Oktoberfest dancing girls is worth the professional hardship of having fast food thrown at him from moving vehicles, etc.

Also, his famous-author father pities him, he's divorced and his kids are heading down bad paths... but David is sure that if he shows some gumption, lands that big network job in New York, makes grand territorial gestures against his ex-wife's new boyfriend and "figures it all out" he can win is family back, his father's respect and the life he's always wanted.

If Spritz was writing the movie, he'd probably cast Robin Williams or Jim Carrey as him before Nicholas Cage: He likely sees himself as quirky, but he's actually closer to just plain pathetic. It's easy to see why his wife left him, why his children don't look up to him and why his father doesn't respect him; he's a dense and insensitive prick for the most part, he's unreliable and doesn't even really respect himself. So there's you're movie: It's not about Spritz achieving all his goals, it's about his slow realization that his striving for clearly unrealistic aims is hurting him and those around him. The eventual moral isn't about reaching for the dream, but learning to accept that some dreams just can't be reached... that life can be worth living even if it's not turning out exactly the way you want it to. In that respect, the film plays like a much more even, mature variation on "Jersey Girl" from a few years back.

Which isn't to say that the film is a total downer. On the way to his semi-epiphany are chances for him to set right some of the (relatively few) things wrong in his life that aren't really his fault: Like turning his not-exactly-slender daughter on to the joys of non-form-fitting clothing, and intervening when his son's guidance counselor turns out to be a sexual predator. To say that David aquits himself wonderfully in each situation would be pushing it... but he at least shows he's getting the right idea.

This isn't the movie I thought it was going to be. I happen to think I got a better one than I expected, you may feel differently. But I'd say it's worth a look, just to see where you fall.