The Weather Man Gore Verbinski

Despite director Gore Verbinski's insistence (on one the DVD's extra features) that The Weather Man is not a genre piece, the film's exploration into the heart of mid-life, upper-middle class American angst seems quite at home among others in the canon: The Ice Storm, American Beauty and Magnolia, for example. Verbinski (The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean) elaborates to say that making a genre film means riffing on the conventions of that genre, and thus working within a restricting and predictable frame. In contrast, he says The Weather Man is built around characters, and that those characters inform everything from a given scene's look, to the flow of the plot. "The script is really built on a grouping of these small emotional events, and that becomes the structure of the film," he says. While this isn't a totally convincing argument on the nature of genre, or how his film works within that discussion, it does suggest that Verbinski is a more thoughtful director than his popcorn filmography might otherwise suggest. Here, Nicholas Cage plays weatherman Jack Spritz, a divorcee who's scrambling to repair lost connections between his children, his ex-wife (Hope Davis) and his overachieving father (Michael Caine). The story is packed with angst-y moments and dry observations of corporate America and the empty promises of the American dream. There are comically conspicuous product placements for a vast array of fast food mega-chains. And Spritz speaks of his six-figure salary almost as if it's distasteful. What's most interesting is how the film frames the weatherman's personal failures against his professional successes, and the subsequent inference of a moneyed dystopia. There are times when Cage's performance borders on the contrived; the way he raises his eyebrows into a disaffected mope, for example, is inconsistent with the more understated elements of the performance. The gesture fails most prominently during a wordless hero shot of him standing at a busy newsroom's water cooler. It plays incongruously like melodrama. For the sake of argument, let's call The Weather Man a sound addition to its genre. And combined with Phedon Papamichael's exquisite cinematography and Michael Caine's small but jet-black comedic turn, this DVD is definitely worth a first, and a second, look. Plus: featurettes. (Paramount)