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Tue October 25, 2005
The Weather Man
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Depression is melancholy minus its charms." Susan Sontag
It's a sure bet a charmless film about a depressed weather man will make you depressed, regardless of its attempts at humor. Director Gore Verbinski in The Weather Man has miscalculated the comedic qualities of a life so bereft of joy, so ignorant of the value of anything valuable in life that he has mistaken Nicolas Cage's splendid turn as an alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas for an equally inspired reprisal as David Spritz, a dreary Chicago weather man lost in his negative thoughts about his audience and loss of his family.
To mix depression with humor is an alchemy too difficult for anyone but, say, Shakespeare, whose Hamlet even has his light moments, but very few thankfully as we enjoy his decline to ersatz madness through language too beautiful to call human. David has a few parts of his life worth being depressed about but hardly humorous: a Pulitzer winning father (David's weather man is like a dentist envying a medical doctor--he's not a meteorologist and dad is a writer who creates and doesn't suffer his son gladly), a wife glad to be rid of him, a dull, overweight daughter, and a druggie son who may be gay.
The film does highlight the superficiality most of us suspect of mainstream television. There are moments when David meets fans, most of whom pelt him with product placements like McDonald's desserts possibly because they figure he's responsible for bad weather or because they don't know that like most anchors, he's reading someone else's words. The counterpoint of a Pulitzer dad is therefore one of the film's nice ironies.
The job offer from a New York station serves to prod the plot in its only forward motion. Beyond that, it simply is a poorly written screenplay (another irony) directed by a tone deaf director despite attempts like the archery motif to class up its figurative side.
"If the weather is foul we stay at home and read the papers." T.S. Eliot
My prediction: cloudy with heavy rain and poor box office. Stay at home.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com