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The Weather Man (7/10)

by Tony Medley

This is no comedy. Despite trailers that make it look like a stupid comedy, à la “Anchorman,” a dismal trip to the movies if ever there was one, this is not played for laughs. Oh, there are a few lines that will make you chuckle, but, by and large, this is a serious film about serious matters.

David Spritz (Nicolas Cage) is a local weatherman in Chicago who has relationship problems with everyone along with what appears to be an almost terminal case of low self esteem. This comes, probably, from comparing himself to his father, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine), who is an award-winning novelist. He’s separated from his wife, Noreen (Hope Davis) and is desperately trying to be a good, understanding father to his two children, Shelly (Gemmenne de la Pena), and Mike (Nicholas Hoult), both of whom have problems. De la Pena gives an exceptional performance as a pudgy little girl who keeps giving her father the chance to help her. There is a very touching scene between David and Shelly involving David trying to find out if Shelly knows what one of the names that she is called at school means. It is beautifully done and points to the fact that David is a man of much more depth than any of his family, or the audience up to that point, gives him credit

Cage gives a remarkable performance as a troubled man, one who seems to mess up everything thing with which he becomes involved. But, like a man out of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous fable, he perseveres. Here’s what T.R. had to say:

 It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled and fell, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust, sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again… who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; and at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Like the man to whom TR refers, Dave keeps trying. He falls down. He fails. He’s laughed at. His wife disdains him. His father clearly doesn’t respect him. But he keeps trying. Robert, his father, is concerned about him and shows his concern. Caine gives one of the best performances of his career as a strong, but caring, father.

This doesn’t go where you anticipate. It won’t be for everyone. Some will find it slow and uninvolving. But Steve Conrad has written a first rate script and director Gore Verbinski has made the most of it. I found this a sensitive, painful, but rewarding film.

October 25, 2005