The Weather Man review by Mike Long

Science fiction and fantasy film can takes us to world which no real person will ever visit. Dramas can often show us real worlds which most of us don't have access to. This is notably true when it comes to specialized occupations. Many movies have given us an inside look at the worlds of police officers, doctors, and layers, just to name a few of the many professions which have been exposed on film. But, have you ever wondered what it's like to be the local TV weather forecaster? That world is explored in the haunting and unusual film The Weather Man.

Nicolas Cage stars in The Weather Man as David Spritz, a weather man for a television station in Chicago. David has a great on-camera style and is very good at his job. Yet, his personal life is a total disaster. His relationship with his estranged wife, Noreen (Hope Davis) is very strained. Their son, Mike (Nicholas Hoult), has had some problems with drugs and is in counseling. Their daughter, Shelly (Gemmenne de la Pena) is an overweight introvert who has no interest in anything. David learns that his father, well-known novelist Robert (Michael Caine) has cancer. As if all of this didn't put enough stress on David, he is up for a position on the national news show "Hello America". To make matters worse, people like to throw food at David.

Yet, instead of giving in to the pressure, David decides that he's going to set things right in his life. He attempts to bond with Shelly, by getting involved in activities with her. He suggests that he and Noreen try and mend their relationship. He becomes determined to get the "Hello America" job to impress his Dad. The more David strives for perfection, the more tragic his life becomes. How far can David be pushed before he finally gives up?

Despite the fact that The Weather Man is from a major studio and features well-known actors, the movie has the feel of an arthouse picture. In fact, The Weather Man may be one of the more unusual "big-name" dramas that I've seen in quite some time. While the movie contains some funny moments, it maintains a very somber tone throughout and is much more about character and mood than story. In fact, the film's story is quite simple, as we follow David through his very complicated life. The twists and turns in the film come more from the characters emotions and actions than from any story conceits. While the movie is filled with dramatic tension, the only real question is will Dave get the major job in New York? However, this life-changing proposition constantly takes a backseat to the chaos in David's life.

I remember seeing the ads for The Weather Man for its theatrical run and then it just came and went. Having seen the film, I can't say that I'm surprised as the movie could be challenging to many audiences. All of the characters in the film are flawed and it's difficult to find one to latch onto. Even with David's good intentions, he still has his bad qualities and when he tries to rectify things, we often wince at his actions. But, while the movie may not necessarily be pleasant, it is still engaging. This stems from the fact that the characters and their problems feel very real. We have the angle of David's job, where he points at a fake map on TV and makes over $200, 000 a year -- something that most of can't relate to -- juxtaposed with his family problems, which unlike many films aren't larger-than-life. David feels out of control and this is a feeling that many of us have had. The movie is also quite funny in spots. There is a scene in which we hear David's inner thoughts, which is hilarious, and when David recounts his history of being pelted with food by strangers, one can't help but smile.

As noted above, The Weather Man features a familiar cast and they do well here. Nicolas Cage is very good in the lead role. He looks incredibly young here and that boyish appearance only feeds into the idea that he's a scare child who only wants to please his father and has no idea how to handle adult relationships. The always dependable Michael Caine is great as Robert -- an award-winning author who can't seem to get a handle on modern life. Hope Davis is also good as the exasperated Noreen. The film was directed by Gore Verbinski, who is well-known for having directed the hits Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring. He tones down his camera movements in The Weather Man, but fills the film with style nonetheless as he allows the lighting to help tell the story. David's world is very cold -- filled with blues and greys -- and this feeling brings the viewer closer to the movie.

The Weather Man is an odd bird, as it's a drama with touches of comedy which is filled with equal parts of hope and hopelessness. The film tells an interesting story of a man who finds his life to be just as unpredictable as the weather. In the end, the movie is too morose for its own good, despite some comedic moments. The Weather Man is worth-seeing, if for nothing else, the acting. But, the heavy tone of the film will weigh on some viewers like a blanket of snow.

The Weather Man blows onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film comes to DVD in two separate editions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The transfer is very sharp and clear, showing only a very fine amount of grain in some shots. This is a nice surprise, given that many shots show an all-white snowy scene, or a very grey-scale picture, both of which could easily display grain. The image shows no defects from the source material and the framing appears to be accurate. The colors look good, most notably any bright color which enters David's drab world. The picture shows minimal defects from artifacting. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track sounds very good, as the dialogue is always sharp and clear. The street sounds of Chicago fill the speakers offering very good stereo and surround sound effects. The subwoofer effects come into play when certain sounds, such as an arrow crunching through ice, need to make an impact.

The Weather Man DVD feartures an unusually dull set of extra features. The main extras on the disc are a series of featurettes, all of which have weather related titles. "Extended Outlook: The Script" (10 minutes) features comments from screenwriter Steve Conrad but never exposes the inspiration for the story. "Forecast: Becoming a Weatherperson" (6 minutes) explores how Cage prepped for the role and has an interview with the film's technical advisor. "Atmospheric Pressure: The Style and Palette" (9 minutes) offers asides from the director of photography and the production designer as they discuss the look of the film and how light was used to heighten emotion. "Relative Humidity" (20 minutes) has comments from the cast and an overview of the main characters. "Trade Winds: The Collaboration" (16 minutes) shows how the director works with the director of photography, the producer, the costumer, and the composer. I often measure the quality of extras by how many nuggets of interesting information I share with my wife after watching them. From these featurettes, the total was zero. They are well made, but very dry and superficial. The other extra is the Theatrical Trailer for the film.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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