Nicolas Cage as David Spritz
Michael Caine as Robert Spritz
Hope Davis as Noreen
Gemmenne de la Peña as Shelly
Nicholas Hoult as Mike
Michael Rispoli as Russ
Gil Bellows as Don
Judith McConnell as Lauren
David Spritz (Nicholas Cage) – although a grown man with a family and a career – is not yet an adult. “Being an adult is never easy,” his father Robert (Michael Caine) tells him early in the film, but everything in his life is, except his relationship with his family. As the truth of his situation becomes more and more clear to him, David realizes how unhappy he is, and how hard his easy life is. And every few months, random strangers throw trash at him; his own karmic repayment, he thinks, for the ‘success’ he enjoys. It epitomizes his growing sense of self-loathing; if complete strangers feel such contempt for him, how can his estranged family possibly love him?
‘The Weather Man” is about life. Specifically modern American life, often so focused on professional success that other things slip through the cracks. Beneath David’s personal existential crisis lays a harsh commentary on American culture’s preoccupation with celebrity and materialism, suggesting that it has lost focus on what it is that makes life worth living, creating an ever more disassociated society that is rapidly losing touch with rest of humanity. It particular points the finger at fast-food mentality that is so easily appeased it has lost the ability to really want things or to enjoy what it has because it hasn’t really worked for it.
As the adults suffer in confusion, their children inherit their problems, creating another lost generation that will have the same problems later on. David’s daughter (Gemmenne de la Peña) is growing a contempt for other people – and a possible propensity for violence – as a reaction to her own low sense of self-worth; his son (Nicholas Hoult) is in rehab and unknowingly being targeted by his pedophile drug counselor (Gil Bellows). The film suggests these problems stem from the failure of the marriage and the fracturing of the family, which causes the problems in society, which leads to the failure of the family, which causes the problems in society, which leads to the failure of the family . . . and on and on and on. ‘What happened and can it be fixed?’ David wonders over and over again, the refrain for 21st century America.
When he learns his father has developed possibly terminal cancer, David decides to try and fix himself and his family, though he has no idea how. Cage approaches David in a generally befuddled manner; genuinely confused at the state of his life, occasionally sparking into rage. It’s his confusion and anger – mostly aimed at himself and his own life, but displaced outwards because he can’t yet face it – that drove his wife (Hope Davis) away. David can’t seem to quite communicate with anyone, though he tries hard to. He’s trusted – and reviled – because he is on TV, reaching out to other people and easing their concerns is supposed to be what his job is about, but he’s faking it because he doesn’t think it is actually possible to talk to anyone anymore. Television, in Gore Verbinski’s gray view of America, has replaced actual human contact to the point where people don’t know how to deal with each other anymore.
Caine as Robert speaks for the older generation – the last ‘great’ generation that built the world we live in today – trying to impart hard earned wisdom to a modern America that seems to have lost its way. David tries to follow the example of his father, to bring his life back to the picture he had of it when he was a young man, only to find that picture has slipped away when he wasn’t looking and he can’t get it back. He can only go forward with his life as it is, and try to make things better for his children. Director Gore Verbinski (“The Ring,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) cloaks the film in a gray Chicago winter that only at the end begins to give way to spring, suggesting that there is still hope in life, even in America.
And a suggestion of hope is as far as “The Weather Man” is willing to go because, as any good weatherman will tell you, no one can really predict the future. It’s more of a parable than a story. It has no real ending, but goes on and on and on, and the only point is to accept it for what it is, and endure. It’s not very uplifting or entertaining – sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sad; sometimes it’s hopeful, and sometimes it’s melancholy. But that’s life.