February 27, 2006

Brilliant, disturbing – The Weather Man

“Always fast food. Fast food. Things that people would rather throw out than finish. It's easy, it tastes all right, but it doesn't really provide you any nourishment. I'm fast food.”

I don’t know how to describe, or recommend, the move The Weather Manwithout scaring people away from it. I’m convinced that when I make my list of best DVDs for 2006 this will be on it simply on the merits of the film. It’s easily the best thing I’ve seen in quite a long time.

But it’s also incredibly depressing.

Normally, I dislike movies that are as down as this but somehow, and I’m not sure how, director Gore Verbinski and writer Steve Conrad (not to mention Nicolas Cage in what may be his best performance) have made this an utterly compelling film.

I know Dave Spritz (Cage’s character). I sometimes fear I am Dave Spritz. As Roger Ebert points out, while this is a comedy of sorts (a satire), it’s really a tragedy. That is the arc. However, part of what makes this movie so interesting is the way the script plays with that.

In terms of how the final scenes are presented, such as the style, it feels like a kind of happy ending, almost a Hollywood ending. But once you think about what the ending is, what it means … well, then you see what Ebert means about the story being about a hero who falls from “a low height.”

It is a fall, despite the tone of the ending (which is part of the satirical element).

I suppose what I most like about the film is that it is a story of a man who is average at best (or, as the character Spritz himself puts it, “I’m fast food”) struggling in our contemporary world, one that is predicated on him being exactly that – average at best, fast food.

I should mention the other brilliant performance in the film, which is Michael Caine as Spritz’s father Robert. Caine manages to get most of the best lines and shares the movie's best scene with Cage.

And despite the humour in the film (which is really not that funny as it’s undercut, fittingly I think, by the music which continually reminds us of what we’re seeing), it is Caine’s character who really gets at what the movie’s informing theme is when he refers to “this shit life.”

The movie is about coming to terms with that, rather a dubious accomplishment as the movie suggests.

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Bill said...

This is a test comment - I got rid of haloscan and went back to this format for comments.

Bill said...
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Bill said...

I'd like to add that Caine does a very clever thing in a key scene at the end, when he is delivering what may be the most important lines of the film.

Throughout the movie he speaks with a fairly sophisticated, cultured accent - reflective of who his character is and his status. But for the key line of the movie he seems to slip into his Cockney roots as if he is saying to his son David (Cage), who's life is about being bullshit on TV, "I, too, am bullshit. That's how we survive. That's who we are."