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I liked it, but that's just my opinion
on October 30, 2005
This was another tricky review for "The Rotten Review". "Weather Man" isn't a comedy or a tragedy, yet it dips deeply into each. I enjoyed it, but it's a flick that will likely divide even intelligent moviegoers who want a respite from "Doom" on one side and "North Country" on the other.
Nicholas Cage is Dave Spritz, "The Weatherman". Though apparently successful giving the weather for Chicago viewers, his life is a wreck. Everybody seems to hate him - the kindest seem to have no respect for him. Though making over $300 grand a year for a job with few time demands, Spritz leads a painful existence. His virtually ex-wife (Hope Davis) hates him, and is planning to start a new life with a puffy jerk named Russ who seems about as attentive to her needs as Spritz himself; his daughter is blankly detached and overweight - all of Spritz's attempts to bond with her end in disaster. Spritz's son, Mike, is in rehab for some vaguely unspecified blow-out - but his counselor has some creepily predatory ideas about the boy. Then there's Spritz's father - played by Michael Caine, Robert Spritzel is a prize-winning author with whom Spritz has never bonded. Spritz had hopes of being a novelist as well, but could barely craft a workable story, let alone escape his father's shadow. The old man could never pass on his talent, and now he's dying of lymphoma. Spritz has only his job to ennoble and enable him - but even that just exposes him to a larger audience of abuse, with Spritz repeatedly targeted by people with unwanted fast-food. (During the course of the flick, Cage is pelted by total strangers with burritos, coffee, milkshakes and, at one point, falafel.) People hate him, or love to think nasty things of him. Worse - Spritz can't even think coherently lauditory things about those he loves. Asked to give a speech about his father, Spritz starts off comparing him to the Bob Seeger song "Like a Rock" - mercifully, the power shorts out before he can further than that. In short, money aside, Spritz is a man slowly becoming undone.
Watching "Weather Man", you'll probably spend most of your time wondering what kind of movie this is. Spritz's predicament is tragic, yet the story doesn't quite bring you to tears. There are moments which are almost hysterically funny, yet "Weather Man" isn't a comedy either - it doesn't try to make Spritz its punchline. Most of the laughs are of the ironic kind (if you saw "Sideways", think of the runaway-Saab scene, or the angry maitre'd from "Punch Drunk Love".) but they work. The script doesn't try to make too much sense of itself - it's never clear how Spritz and his wife ever had any relationship given how much she hates him, or what brought them to go at each other's throats. (Why Spritz's wife seems eager to replace him with a guy who seems about as worthwhile as Spritz was, is only another of the flick's enigmatic touches.)
Yet "Weather Man" has its own magic for those willing to give it a chance. Nick Cage works some real pathos out of the shallow Spritz, and creates an unforgettable character out of a facile TV personality utterly clueless to the mysteries of the wind. Set in a Chicago seemingly trapped in an endless winter, and the lakes are coated with slabs of ice - the setting mirrors Spritz's soul. Spritz himself is frozen, willing to stick with winter rather than face a new and warm season in which his wife will start a new life without him, and in which his father will be dead. I can't call it a thinking-man's comedy, because you don't have to be an idiot to hate it. Instead, it's that rare dish of comedy that must be served cold.