The Weather Man
Dir. Gore Verbinski, 2005, U.S.
The Weather Man’s theatrical trailer was mostly comprised of cheap sight gags and pranks, sodas and shakes being lobbed through the air to hit Nicolas Cage’s deadpan face. Yet the film, one of the most overlooked of 2005, does not rely on spectacle, rather it implicates the viewer into its narrative community.The film has an elegant consciousness of time, space, and community, using longer reaction-shot duration to gracefully remind us that we are all components of the social spheres (both small and large scale) we inhabit.
Nicolas Cage’s David Spritz, a toothy, talking head at a local TV station delivers the weather report each day with a bouncy step and shiny smile. Of course, that persona is as flimsy as his weather reports, the inaccuracy of which incite pedestrians to throw milkshakes at his head; slapstick food fights which nevertheless serve as reminders for David that his life extends beyond the border of the television screen, that he has a purpose as a citizen as much as, and more than, his TV-projected predictions. All those fountain drinks dripping off his coat and drive-by assaults slowly pick away at David’s plastic exterior. Each time it happens the camera cuts away to the car passenger who threw it at him: we see their face, their vindictive anger, their devious pleasure, and they are held in the shot for a crucial extra moment longer—the perpetrator has a face and is therefore accountable, mimicking David’s slow realization of his own responsibilities beyond the newsroom. He is not down on his luck, the world is not against him, and an unidentifiable few do not blunder his days without reason. There is no deus ex machina behind these punch lines that detach him from those pedestrians in this space; they are all part of the same community, and this is what David begins to understand the more he observes those around him.
In a scene at the DMV, bored and miserable among the crowd, he picks a fight with a man for reasons that cannot be justified beyond simple impatience. His short temper and sense of entitlement propel him to degrade those whom he thinks inferior; in his mind it does not add up that a person of his intellectual and social stature should have to wait in line like the rest. David is so disillusioned by the imagined reality of what he is in relation to everyone else that he does not see how miserable he actually is. But the man in line fights back, bringing David down to the same level as him; the frame encloses David and the man, and various others in line to show each of their inter-working characters that define this space. In another scene, a man jogs over and asks him for the “Spritz Nipper,” David’s television catch phrase for the week’s coldest day. He snaps at him, but the camera steadies over his shoulder, rather than cuts away, and we see his has calm, hurt expression, pained that someone as visible as David can make him seem invisible.
Ironically, the people he neglects more than anyone else, his family, inspire the most change in his character. Through a serious of feigned attempts at contact with his ex-wife Noreen (Hope Davis) and their two children, he sees that people will not acquiesce to his every desire or whim. We also see David’s insecurity emerge, as he holds himself to the outsized standards of his successful father (Michael Caine). The resiliency of unconditional familial love affords him the chance to change; these are the people who are not affected by his television image, who have nothing to lose by telling him the truth; they have the power in this relationship and they use it to break the interface of his false TV persona.
Later, David sits at a food court observing people eat handfuls of greasy fast-food, in wonder at their oblivious movements, noting precisely how people appear when they think no one is looking. By witnessing these unsavory and unflattering moments, David realizes for the first time that people, too, see him when he thinks no one notices. The Weather Man gives us snapshots of what people look like after we look away. A good deal of communication today is conducted through an interface of a television or computer screen. As it consistently acknowledges secondary and tertiary characters through longer, more observant reaction shots, The Weather Man reminds us to take a look around and see how we individually fit into a community of many. –PAMELA L. KERPIUS