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With: Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Peña, Nicholas Hoult
Written by: Steven Conrad
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and sexual content
Running Time: 102
Date: 10/20/2005

The Weather Man (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

No Rain, No Gain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's rare enough to see a Hollywood movie about grown-ups, but it's even rarer still to see one from Gore Verbinski, the director behind such disparate popcorn-munchers as The Mexican (2001), The Ring (2002) and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). However good or bad these movies may have been, there was no indication that their maker was capable of tackling anything grown-up, much less something as good as The Weather Man.

Verbinski has pulled off this neat trick by balancing The Weather Man on one side with intelligent, nuanced performances by a superb cast, and on the other with recognizable and easily-digested Hollywood ingredients. Yet, the result is so carefully integrated and so neatly locked in that it comes off as an effortless entertainment.

Nicolas Cage stars as the aptly named David Spritz, a TV weatherman in Chicago. Whenever his predictions go wrong, spirited Chicagoans pelt him with ice cream, a latte or whatever's handy. These peltings compliment David's inner crisis; he longs to be a success like his father, an award-winning novelist, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine), but instead he tries to figure out what happened to his marriage. His ex-wife (Hope Davis) is seeing another man, and David's tentative relationship with his teenage kids slowly slips away.

As part of his struggle, David discovers the soul-cleansing art of archery, and even tries to teach it to his quiet, overweight daughter (Gemmenne de la Pe´┐Ża). David is also in the middle of interviewing for the high-profile weatherman job on "Hello America," while dealing with his father's fatal illness.

Collected in an original screenplay by Steven Conrad, all of these problems are patently external and cinematically obvious, yet Cage applies his lifetime reservoir of droll anxiety and twitchy pain, deepening the role far beyond the written page. Credit Verbinski as well; considering this and the job he did on Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and the rest, his skill with actors has reached a new high point.

No one illustrates this better than Michael Caine, who clocks in with an almost certain Best Supporting Actor turn (alongside Jeffrey Wright in Broken Flowers). Yes, it's a disease-of-the-week role, but Caine never plays any obvious hospital scenes with pale, sallow makeup and raspy, death-rattle speeches. It's an enticingly internal performance, brilliantly hiding his pain and uncertainty. He perfectly compliments Cage's David, who searches every nook and cranny for something, any kind of acknowledgement of pride or disappointment. When Robert gives David a bit of advice regarding his daughter's in appropriate clothing, it comes across as condescending as well as caring; David can't read him at all.

Verbinski's balancing act falls apart at the movie's end, in which -- like a post-storm rainbow -- all of David's complex problems are happily resolved, or at least suspended. And yet The Weather Man leaves us with the impression that it has tried hard to go a little bit deeper, to acknowledge adult experience and intelligence, and that's no small feat.

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