The Weather Man

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Against the desolate backdrop of a Chicago winter, angst-ridden TV weather man Dave Spritz (Cage) tries to keep his career on track. His personal life is a wreck, too — he’s separated from his wife (Davis), his son’s in trouble with the police, his daught


Watching this wintry, foreboding character-piece, you are constantly reminded of what a wonderfully gifted filmmaker Alexander Payne is, how he can infuse even the most lugubrious pondering on the human condition with the sustaining light of laughter and the comforting glow of hope. Sadly, The Weather Man was not written or directed by Payne but, respectively, by Steve Conrad and Gore Verbinski — who, despite clearly aiming for the kind of downbeat uplift that is Payne’s stock-in-trade, offer a take on life’s stubborn refusal to conform to our dreams that has as much to recommend it as a wet Bank Holiday weekend in Rhyl during an umbrella famine.

The driving premise seems at first to have some mileage. Dave Spritz (Nic Cage) is a mildly successful TV weather man forlornly attempting to rebuild his ruined personal life. His sunny TV persona contrasts with dour reality (he is hampered by passers-by constantly pelting him with fast food — this is nowhere near as funny as it sounds), just as his upward career trajectory inversely reflects his wrecked marriage, alienated children and painfully strained relationship with his dying father (Caine, who brings characteristic class to the proceedings).

The whole weather motif is also a handy metaphor for the heedless winds of fate that batter Dave at every turn. But he’s such an unsympathetic prick — angry, feckless, emotionally retarded and flat-out annoying — that you don’t care whether he reconciles with his kids, wins back his wife (the ever-dependable Davis) or makes his dad proud before he pegs it.
In fact, you actively wish he’d just bugger off to the Big Apple and leave them in peace.

The film’s chill seeps into your bones like a ceaseless cold drizzle. It also suffers from uncomfortably weird tonal shifts. What bonds Dave does forge with his kids, for instance, are borne out of his beating up his son’s paedophile drug councillor and confronting his overweight daughter’s nickname, “Cameltoe”, the origins of which are excruciatingly explained to him by his father. Child-molesting and pre-pubescent genitalia as running gags — that’s not offbeat, not quirky and not remotely funny. It’s elements like this that make The Weather Man not just difficult to warm to but very easy to dislike.

Billed as a quirky, character-driven comedy, Verbinski’s sabbatical from Pirates Of The Caribbean is, despite stalwart performances from Cage, Davis and Caine, about as fun as sitting in a soaking wet overcoat for 90 minutes.