I was just really in the mood to see a movie. Not an action flick, a western, a mystery thriller or a “romantic comedy”… Just… Well, just a movie. And that’s what I got.
“The Weather Man” (starring Nicolas Cage, 2005) doesn’t really fit into those neat little boxes, the kind that are always mentioned when someone says, “What kind of movies do you like?” It’s not a romance, though there are definitely elements of romance in it. And it’s not a comedy, but I laughed out loud a few times. It’s also not an action movie, but the one “action” scene was well-filmed and extremely believable. And it was definitely not a suspense movie, but I found myself on edge, waiting to see what would happen next. It just doesn’t qualify for one of those pat labels.
It’s just a movie about people and their problems, but, as those kinds of movies go, this one was very likable.
Cage stars as a upper-echelon weather man on a TV station in Chicago. His wife Noreen (played well by Hope Davis) doesn’t like him very much, and in fact is getting married to another man. His children, Shelly and Mike, aren’t doing so well either. Shelly’s overweight and gets called names at school; she isn’t interested in anything; and she smokes (which now means “uncool,” unlike in the older movies, where it meant “cool”). Mike had a drug problem and now has even more problems with his pedophile counselor (Gil Bellows). Oh, and Cage’s father (Michael Caine) is about to die. I think there are other people with problems too, but that sums up the main characters.
Just reading that last paragraph makes the movie sound trite and boring (besides overdone these days), but that’s not the way it turned out. This movie won’t be seen by a lot of people, partly because it wasn’t advertised heavily, and partly because Cage isn’t the box office draw that he used to be — I’m not sure why… Even his last dozen movies, which didn’t do so hot at the box office, were still pretty good. (Here, I’m thinking of National Treasure, Matchstick Men, Windtalkers, The Family Man, Gone in 60 Seconds, Bringing Out the Dead, and 8mm.) But the folks that don’t see it are missing something.
For one, they’ll be missing a generally unseen side of Chicago, a wet, wintery, and bone-cold side of the city that cinematographer Phedon Papamichael II captures beautifully. Even in the medium-rare comfort of the movie theater, the icy and snowy scenes convinced me that I was really that cold. The scenes between Cage and Caine (son and father) are set in such a way that you feel you’re intruding on the private moments, the kind of moments that only come along rarely for most fathers and sons, especially these two. There are several surprises with lighting and camera angles that make the film feel more down-to-earth, more middle America, and more like it might be about the guy who lives next door.
For another, the people who skip this movie will miss out on the most usages of the word “cameltoe” ever seen in American cinema. It was shocking when Michael Caine first uttered the word, and then I was rocked back when he and Cage (and even Shelly) said it again and again. In fact, the movie had a way of luring the viewer into a false sense of security with long stretches of relatively clean language, and then blasting out several F-bombs in a row. But every usage seemed completely real, and never out-of-place. This is the kind of language used by people with these frustrations.
Like when Cage is struck by flying fast food, thrown by passersby who, for some odd reason, hate the weatherman (is it because they’re never right?) Or when he completely breaks Noreen’s trust, and she lambasts him with a story of why her fellatio hadn’t been very enthusiastic during their marriage.
The story’s ending isn’t happy, nor is it sad, but it’s a “real” ending, the kind that a guy like Cage’s character would have.
Overall, the texture of the movie was rich, the soundtrack never distracting or overpowering, the dialogue witty and unexpected at times, and the paying customer (me) was left with a good feeling.
Most of the reviews I read (and I usually read reviews before seeing a movie) weren’t sure what to say about it. They couldn’t give it a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. They couldn’t pinpoint what it was they liked or disliked about the film. Maybe because it’s not a pigeon-hole movie. It doesn’t fit inside the box, so to speak. It’s just a movie. A good movie, about good people in bad situations, and who sometimes do bad things.
The message seemed to be that in the end, life goes on, like it always will, whether the things that happen to us are good or bad. So true, and so poignant. And so often ignored.