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Photograph by Melinda Sue Gordon

It's Not Easy Being Green Screen: Nicolas Cage must deal with storm clouds in his own life in Gore Verbinski's 'The Weather Man.'

No Rain, No Gain

Cage, Caine provide silver lining in 'Weather Man'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

IT IS rare enough to see a Hollywood movie about grown-ups, but it is even rarer to see one from Gore Verbinski, the director behind such disparate popcorn-munchers as The Mexican, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. However good or bad these movies may have been, there was no indication that their maker was capable of tackling anything grown-up, much less something as good as The Weather Man. Verbinski has pulled off this neat trick by balancing the film on one side with intelligent, nuanced performances by a superb cast and on the other with recognizable and easily digested Hollywood ingredients. Yet the result is so carefully integrated and so neatly locked in that it comes off as an effortless entertainment.

Nicolas Cage stars as the aptly named David Spritz, a TV weatherman in Chicago. Whenever his predictions go wrong, spirited Chicagoans pelt him with ice cream, a latte or whatever's handy. These peltings complement David's inner crisis; he longs to be a success like his father, Robert (Michael Caine), an award-winning novelist, but instead he tries to figure out what happened to his marriage. His ex-wife, Noreen (Hope Davis), is seeing another man, and David's tentative relationship with his teenage kids is slowly slipping away. As part of his struggle, David discovers the soul-cleansing art of archery and even attempts to teach it to his quiet, overweight daughter (Gemmenne de la Peña). David is also in the middle of interviewing for the high-profile weatherman job on Hello, America, while dealing with his father's fatal illness.

Collected in an original screenplay by Steven Conrad, all of these problems are patently external and cinematically obvious, yet Cage applies his lifetime reservoir of droll anxiety and twitchy pain, deepening the role far beyond the written page. Credit Verbinski as well; considering this and the job he did on Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush and the rest, his skill with actors has reached a new high point. No one illustrates this better than Caine, who clocks in with an almost certain Best Supporting Actor turn. Yes, it's a disease-of-the-week role, but Caine never plays any obvious hospital scenes with pale, sallow makeup and raspy, death-rattle speeches. He delivers an enticingly internal performance, brilliantly hiding his pain and uncertainty. He perfectly balances Cage's David, who searches every nook and cranny for something, any kind of acknowledgement of pride or disappointment. When Robert gives David a bit of advice regarding his daughter's inappropriate clothing, it comes across as condescending as well as caring; David can't read him at all.

Verbinski's balancing act falls apart at the movie's end, in which— like a post-storm rainbow—all of David's complex problems are happily resolved, or at least suspended. And yet The Weather Man leaves us with the impression that it has tried hard to go a little bit deeper, to acknowledge adult experience and intelligence, and that's no small feat.

The Weather Man (R, 102 min.), directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Steven Conrad, photographed by Phedon Papamichael and starring Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine and Hope Davis, opens Friday at selected theaters.

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From the October 26-November 1, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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