Moriarty Reports On Nicolas Cage In THE WEATHER MAN!!
Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
As I was getting ready to leave the house the other day, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen a single new release so far this year. It hasn’t been a conscious decision, but I just haven’t made it to the theater for any of the January titles like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 or ELEKTRA or WHITE NOISE or (shudder) RACING STRIPES. And since I’m not at Sundance this year, I’m not kicking the year off with the movie overdose that many critics are enjoying in Park City right now.
So what got me out of the house Tuesday afternoon? Well, Steve Conrad’s script for THE WEATHER MAN has been kicking around for a while, and I’ve always heard people speak highly of it. It took Gore Verbinski cashing in the clout he earned from the success of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and THE RING to finally get the film made. You’ve got to give Paramount credit for taking a chance on a film that is not immediately commercially obvious, especially not one that seems like a typical Paramount movie. If I could compare this to any film of theirs in recent memory, it would be WONDER BOYS. This feels like an adaptation of a novel, even though it isn’t. It’s small-scale, character-driven, and textured in a way that I found quite involving.
Nicolas Cage stars at Dave Spritz, a local TV weather man who is struggling to figure out his life. When he’s on TV, he’s confident and polished, all smiles. In his daily life, though, he’s a catastrophe. He’s divorced from his wife Noreen (the always-reliable Hope Davis), but he doesn’t seem able to process what happened between them. Both of his kids are troubled, but in very different ways. His son Mike (Nicholas Hoult) got busted with pot and is going through a rehab program, while his daughter Shelly (Gemmenne de la Pena) has a terrible weight problem and seems miserable. Dave’s famous father, an internationally acclaimed novelist (Michael Caine), tries not to make Dave feel any worse about things, but he casts a long shadow over Dave’s life simply by virtue of the example he sets, and all Dave wants is to sort his life out enough to impress him.
And that’s about it. There’s no gimmick, no high-concept twist. It’s just a film about this guy dealing with all of these pressures and edging closer and closer to a possible breaking point. Nicolas Cage is an actor who I find occasionally frustrating, but it’s not because of a lack of talent. Quite the opposite, in fact. When I see him in crap like GONE IN 60 SECONDS, it seems like such a waste. Here, he’s got a strongly-written character to play and no easy quirks to fall back on. He does a wonderful job of letting us into Dave’s mind. There’s one scene in particular, when Dave flashes back to a key moment in the breakdown of his marriage, that is so real that you end up laughing in sheer horror. Cage manages to invest Dave with a sort of rumpled dignity even at his lowest moments. Everyone else does good work as well. Michael Caine admirably underplays his role as Dave’s dying father. It would have been easy for the character to be overbearing, disapproving, a bully. Instead, Caine plays him as a great man who doesn’t lord it over everyone else. He really does love his son, and he wants to see him succeed. De la Pena has a difficult role as Dave’s daughter, and she handles it really well. Hoult’s changed a lot since his starring role in ABOUT A BOY, and his scenes with Gil Bellows, who plays one of his drug counselors who takes too much of an interest in him, are really creepy. Davis does her typical great job as Dave’s justifiably angry ex-wife, and it’s easy to understand why she had to move on.
There are a number of big laughs in the film, but it’s not a comedy. There’s an current of real pain that underscores everything here, and there’s a courage to the way the film doesn’t offer up easy resolutions to the very real problems that it sets up for Dave and his family. It’s a movie about small epiphanies, not unrealistic band-aids for the emotional wounds they’ve all suffered. Cage sells it all, whether he’s dealing with the constant random abuse he suffers at the hands of strangers who throw things like milkshakes and McDonald’s apple pies at him, or trying to help his daughter deal with being called “camel-toe” by her peers, or confronting Bellows over his deviant misbehavior towards his son. Verbinski manages to balance some really tricky tonal shifts quite well, and the result is a film that has more weight to it than you might expect at first glance, and one that genuinely seems to have something to say.
This year was the first time I was able to have my parents visit Austin during the Butt-Numb-A-Thon, something I’ve wanted to do for a little while now. For me, the highlight of the entire experience was talking to them afterwards, when they commented to me how much it meant to them to see me in my element. They definitely got a glimpse into my daily professional life, not only as we enjoyed the festival, but also over the course of the days leading up to it, since my writing partner Scott Swan and I were having to pitch for a job over the phone because of time constraints. My parents told me how much they enjoyed seeing me work at my chosen profession, something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. That was pretty incredible to hear, and I think we all yearn for the approval of our parents on some level. Even if someone has a difficult relationship with their parents, they still find that much of what they do is a reaction to them, either to prove them wrong or to show them what you’re capable of, and much of THE WEATHER MAN deals with this idea. Dave’s ambitions aren’t about himself so much as they are ways for him to prove things to his famous father or his estranged wife or his own kids. That’s the material that I thought was the strongest in the film, and it carries a real punch.
This must have been good for Verbinski, and it shows in the quiet confidence that his work exudes here. Working with cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (SIDEWAYS), he’s created a grey and chilly world that mirrors the ice that has formed around Dave’s heart, and the gradual thaw is quite affecting. Hans Zimmer’s score is solid, if unmemorable. The film represents a bit of a marketing challenge for Paramount, but hopefully they’ll emphasize the performances, the moments between Cage and Caine or Cage and Davis, and the film’s slightly left-of-center sense of humor. The movie’s opening the same day as SIN CITY, and the trailer I saw for it didn’t exactly floor me. It’s the kind of movie that is hard to sum up in two-and-a-half minutes, but if you’re willing to give it a chance, it’s a rich and rewarding charmer, and a really nice way to kick off 2005.
I’ve got a number of screenings set up in the next week or so, including two Oscar-nominated films that are just now getting a release (the German-language DOWNFALL and Kirby Dick’s documentary TWIST OF FAITH), the Bruce Willis film HOSTAGE (which I want to see because I loved the director’s last film, NID DE GUEPES), Dimension’s big Sundance acquisition WOLF CREEK, and, if I’m lucky, a few very cool early surprises. I’ll be back with reports on all of them, plus a pair of DVD SHELF columns over the weekend. Until then...
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Jan. 27, 2005, 4:21 p.m. CST
Jan. 27, 2005, 4:23 p.m. CST
by Toe Jam
this one really underwhelmed me. maybe it's just the nature of the film, but reading this review just left me with a "bleh" kind of feeling. no way in hell will i be seeing this film.
Jan. 27, 2005, 4:37 p.m. CST
I thought it was a funny, well put together trailer. Looking forward to the film.
Jan. 27, 2005, 4:58 p.m. CST
i was actually inclined to think: 'hey, this might be very decent'. so i'm looking forward to seeing it. if it gets somewhat decent reviews and i hear its good, i might even invest the time to watch it in theater.
Jan. 27, 2005, 5:04 p.m. CST
It's official. Cursed is rated PG-13. Not only have they done a terrible job of advertising the film but now they are going to ruin (what is supposedly) the only reason to see it (the gore). I found this out from http://chud.com/forums/showthread.php?t=75722)
Jan. 27, 2005, 5:06 p.m. CST
Harry, you human colostomy bag, I'll never, ever get tired of giving you grief about that. You raved about that movie like Jesus Christ Himself had a cameo appearance in it. And it sucked sour frog balls. Tool. But this one I'll give a try. Unless you burned me, Mori, in which case look forward to hearing about it 5 years from now. I carry a grudge like nobody's business.
Jan. 27, 2005, 6:21 p.m. CST
I read the script. Liked it a lot. Not much of a plot but a strong character piece -- a nice mix of humor and emotional moments. To correct what Moriarty wrote, the script has NOT AT ALL been "kicking around [Hollywood] for a while". The script sold (5/03), about three months later Nic Cage was attached, Gore Verbinski was attached, and five months later is was in production (9 months after the script first sold). It's not too often a project moves so quickly! It was scheduled for release during the 2004 holiday season, but the release date was pushed back to May 2005. Not a good sign. I think I know why: I saw the movie at a test screening last fall (at the Grove) and had high hopes. It disappointed me on almost every level. Granted, it was an early cut so they've surely done a lot of work on it since then, but the problems I saw are not the type that can be fixed with post-production work. The script is very, very quirky, but the movie is shot in a way that seems to remove all the quirkiness. The stark and drab look gives it a realistic feel, so that it makes the over-the-top, quirky moments feel completely unrealistic. There are some great comedic moments in the film, moments that got a strong response from the test audience (though most of those moments are in the trailer), but sadly, having read the script, many of the script's biggest laughs fall flat when delivered on screen. The biggest problem of all is that none, I repeat, none of the emotional scenes carry any weight in the movie. We should care so much more about the scenes between Cage and Caine, or Cage and his kids, but I couldn't bring myself to care at all about them, and I can't put my finger on the exact reason why. My feelings were echoed by the three people I attended the screening with. Not to say this movie is horrible, I'd recommend renting it whenever it comes out, but don't expect too much.
Jan. 27, 2005, 6:51 p.m. CST
by santos kauffman
These two things alone should irreducibly vitiate my esteem for a person....and yet I can't help but really respect dude. Good review Mori, as usual. The way you incorporate personal/anecdotal detail organically and coherently always enhances your reviews, in contrast to the inanity of a few of your peers. Congratulations on your success so far.
Jan. 27, 2005, 10:44 p.m. CST
"It packs a punch," I think, says all I need to hear. Like 'Ordinary People,' this sounds like a family movie built on pathos and not wish-fulfillment (or transplanted Shakespearean tragedy), and as I'm a fan of that, of Nic Cage, and especially of Gore Verbinski, I'll check this one out.
Jan. 28, 2005, 12:15 a.m. CST
by Jon E Cin
Jan. 28, 2005, 1:42 a.m. CST
Shit, just when I thought there'd be something involving aliens, memory implants, or hell, even alien memory implants.
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