Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Weather Man (2005)

The Weather ManWhat is it with Nicolas Cage and confectionary? When I reviewed his last movie, Lord of War, I complained that this was the first DVD in a collection of nearly 2000 that had forced a tawdry advert for Mars bars on me - an advert which cannot be skipped. DVDs are not cheap and to be forced to watch confectionary advertisements before viewing what you've paid for is disgraceful. A few months later I've hit the same situation with a second DVD - this time the unskippable advert is for M & M's, and it's on the DVD of The Weather Man - a film also starring Nicolas Cage.

It's not just the incredibly annoying adverts that The Weather Man, released on DVD this week, has in common with its predecessor. This is another 'character' movie, with the lead (Cage) narrating things from his point of view as events unfold on screen. With stars like Michael Cain and Hope Davis on board you might think this was a big Hollywood movie, especially since it is directed by Gore Verbinski, best known for The Pirates of the Carribean movies. However, this is more 'art house' than mainstream, and as such is likely to have a limited audience.

Not that it's a bad movie - it's skillfully done, and it's many, many years since I saw Michael Cain turn in as good a performance as he does here (I think he's seriously over-rated as an actor, so this came as a bit of a surprise). Nicolas Cage, in the lead role, is so good I'm almost wondering if I need to re-evaluate my impressions of him as a rather average actor. He plays the central role here with panache, subtlety, and a sort of resigned defeat that many of his Hollywood contemporaries wouldn't have the class to understand, let alone emulate.

In fact all the cast are excellent, but the story, such as it is, is very much what several critics have called 'a downer'. Cage plays 'The Weather Man' of the title, a loser if ever there was one. Even when he tries to do something right fate transpires against him, leaving him looking stupid and clueless. His marriage is falling apart. His father, a Pullitzer prize winning author, can't hide his disappointment in his son's job or personal life. His daughter is an overweight schoolgirl who is being bullied and who uses her homework money to buy illicit cigarettes. His son is in rehab for smoking pot, with a male counsellor who keeps buying him presents and finding any excuse he can for the child to take his shirt off. And Cage's character blames himself for all of this. It's an interesting character study, but ultimately Cage's character comes across as a bit of a bore - and it's hard to like bores! There is the odd spot of 'comic' relief, all of it featured in the trailer, but this is only a 'comedy' in the same sense that About Schmidt is (ie I wouldn't call it a comedy at all!)

The cinematography is striking, and at times beautiful, with its muted greys, greens and blues reflecting the blandness of 'The Weatherman' who can do nothing right. The music too works well with the piece. And the extra's, in the form of several featurettes making up a 30-40 minute 'Making of' are OK, without being exceptional (there is no commentary or deleted scenes, with only a trailer to add to the featurettes). I enjoyed 'The Weatherman', despite the quirkiness (which would usually have me running a mile), and ultimately I found it to be a fairly engrossing story about a man coming to terms with his lot in life. I think it's definitely worth a rental, but not necessarily a purchase.

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