U.S. Release Date: October 28, 2005
Distributor: Paramount
Director: Gore Verbinski
Writer: Steve Conrad
Producer: Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch
Composer: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Nicholas Hoult
Running Time: 1 hour and 42 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (strong language and sexual content)

Awaken the Weatherman Within
by Scott Holleran

Director Gore Verbinski's The Weather Man is a slow, bleak, climb to a higher altitude. Neither hilarious nor profound, it is glum, yet it stretches consistently toward a modest goal. The movie's poster, featuring actor Nicolas Cage as a put upon weatherman, wears its cynicism as a badge and a tag line that bears a warning: Bring an umbrella.

In other words, prepare to get soaked, which is par for the course in the city of big shoulders, Chicago, where the movie takes place. Legend has it that the city's infamous weather creates character, and that's what Verbinski's picture is intended to represent. Cage's weatherman is halfway through life, tilting downwards, and trying to pull out of the spiral.

Verbinski, with writer and co-producer Steven Conrad—who attended Northwestern and lives in Chicago—use the unending grey canvas of that second city to convey the coldness that can seep into one's soul. Biting wind chill—dead leaves—Lake Michigan ice chunks—Chicago's weather is the mirror to Cage's lament. His life is in the slush.

The Midwest's meteorological monotony is contagious, spreading to his television job, where his assistant keeps him posted on the status of his shot at a big career—a national morning show gig—in flat tones, echoed by everyone in the movie, especially his kids, a couple of good eggs in dire need of love and attention. His daughter (Gemmenne de la Peña) lacks self-esteem, his son (Nicholas Hoult) is teetering on the brink of something perverse, and his ex-wife (Hope Davis) is fed up with him.

Rightly so, as Cage, routinely pummeled by TV viewers with food and drink, is a boor on the verge of explosion, and the contrived Weather Man flirts with self-pity. But Cage's familiar slouch fits the character like an Isotoner glove. Sure, he pines for his honey-blonde ex, despite his stubborn refusal to trust another person, and he has been a poor father, neglecting his children nearly to the point of harm.

However, he shows up—for work, for his harsh, ailing father (Michael Caine), for his obese daughter, for his lost son, for his ex-wife—which means he's trying, and that is the prerequisite for succeeding. The Weather Man is focused on the process, and it undersells the product, which makes it less than fully engaging, but, in the end, it comes through with a ray of sunshine.

Cage's hurt, aching face yearns to master something and, though it slips into men's magazine mode, his plodding journey is at once amusing and affirming. Life is not easy—learn to let go—accept limitations, these are the instant messages Verbinski and Conrad send. The title completes the picture's main narrative point.

The payoff is too subtle, pacing is off and Mr. Caine's character feels unfinished, but watching Cage sift through heavy, midlife problems provokes laughter, thought and small pleasures of irony. Once is probably enough for this movie, which includes a brave performance by Gil Bellows (ill-fated Tommy in The Shawshank Redemption) in a creepy subplot that feeds a politically incorrect, stand-up-and-cheer moment—bureaucrats be damned—and it's definitely better to leave the kids at home. But at the root of this jaded forecast is a thin, not jolly, silver lining.

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