Release Date:  October 28, 2005
Rating:  R (strong language and sexual content)
Genre:  Drama/Comedy
Run Time:  101 min.
Director:  Gore Verbinski
Actors:  Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Penne, Nicholas Hoult

"The Weather Man," from director Gore Verbinski ("The Ring", "The Mexican", "Mousehunt"), is one of the strangest Hollywood studio concoctions to be thrust upon the public in some time. The film boldly peels back the veneer of material success, showing the existential emptiness that affects so many today, but falters badly by embracing these trends and the fractured society they have helped produce.

Nicolas Cage plays Dave Spritz, a successful Chicago weather man whose family life is in tatters. Separated from his wife (Hope Davis), Dave struggles to connect with his teenage son and preteen daughter as they deal with taunts, peer pressure and, in the son’s case, insidious advances by a male mentor.

A career opportunity to work on a nationally broadcast morning show in New York leads Dave to reflect on his relationship with his children, as he searches for a way to influence his son, Mike (Nicholas Hoult), and daughter, Shelly (Gemmenne de la Penne), the same way his father (Michael Caine) influenced him. (The character of Dave’s mother plays an inexplicably small role in the film.) Dave’s voiceover narration (an often poorly used narrative device that nevertheless works well in this film) tells us that his own dad was a “fine father” and an award-winning writer – two areas in which Dave has fallen far short. As Dave wrestles with the possibility of relocating, the only advantage he can come up with is the larger salary – something he values much less than the opportunity to rekindle a relationship with his wife.

The theme of loss infuses "The Weather Man." His children have grown distant from him, and his father has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Dave’s aspirations as a writer also will soon be quashed by lukewarm-to-hostile reactions to his novel. As Dave loses his wife to another man, he has to reckon with the reality of the deeply flawed man he is, rather than the happily married father he had once hoped to become.

The film tries to lighten the heavy material with steady doses of humor, often at Dave’s expense. He is repeatedly on the receiving end of fast food thrown at him by automobile passengers. He also has an impulse toward the use of foul language – a character trait the filmmakers apparently think will endear Dave to viewers.

More endearing is Dave’s father, Robert, who provides a stoic anchor in the midst of Dave’s personal and professional crises. Robert, who seems to know more about Dave’s son and daughter than Dave does, offers kind words of advice to Dave while facing the ultimate outcome of human weakness: death.

The connection between money and responsibility also plays a role in "The Weather Man." Dave’s philosophy about carrying more than a few dollars at all times becomes a running joke in the film, but the humor is laced with sadness when, toward the end of the film, Shelly echoes Dave’s views on money and responsibility – one of the few things he’s been able to pass on to her, despite his efforts to help her develop hobbies and other interests.

The screenwriters leave it to Robert to utter the movie’s essential message about making tradeoffs in life, and it’s here that the movie disappoints, as Robert asserts, crudely, that the struggles of our earthly life sometimes simply need to be put behind us.

Left unsaid is the uncertainty of what lies ahead. We’re given no reason to believe Dave will prosper in New York, away from his family. The upsides of such a move are strictly financial and professional – areas of life toward which Dave is ambivalent.

The filmmakers should be commended for coming up with a conclusion that, while not reassuring, does not completely sell out the spirit of ennui that pervades the film. Even so, the film’s resolution of Dave’s dilemma rings false, and the lack of progression or redemption for Dave, or anyone else in the story, leaves a void where the film’s heart might otherwise have been.

AUDIENCE:  Adults

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT:

  • Language/Profanity:  Very raw, very blunt language throughout the film, often in family situations. Dave notes that his use of foul language is a distinctive character trait, and this is played for laughs; Mike admires a counselor who swears frequently.
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Dave expresses suspicions that his son smokes pot; Shelly buys cigarettes with Dave’s money; Dave drinks in a hotel room.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Dave has sex with a woman he meets while doing a personal appearance at a fair; the woman’s breast is displayed; Dave confesses to looking at pornography on his computer; Dave, in voiceover, discusses explicit sex acts he wants to carry out with a woman he sees on a street corner; Mike is wooed by a male counselor, who is later accused of making a sexual advance toward Mike.
  • Violence:  Dave inadvertently breaks his wife’s glasses after a tossed snowball has a more forceful than anticipated impact; Dave physically attacks the counselor alleged to have made a sexual advance toward his son. Dave brags about this incident to his son, who clearly admires his dad’s actions, as does Dave’s father; Dave is struck numerous times by flying objects; Dave uses a pair of gloves to slap another man; Dave aims a bow and arrow toward another character
  • Death and Dying:  Dave’s father is diagnosed with lymphoma and given only months to live. A “living funeral” is arranged and carried out by Dave’s mother.