Wednesday, February 22, 2006

'The Weather Man' ...

Watching Nicolas Cage suffer through this movie was about as much fun as stepping in an icy puddle of slush.

Interestingly, Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars. And his review makes salient points. Maybe I was too distracted because the location shots were too familiar. WGN is turned into WCH. Whenever a movie is filmed in Chicago, I'm distracted, trying to identify what was shot where, how accurate the editing is from place to place, scene to scene. I wanted to call the screenwriter and say, "Hey, we don't have Kenny Rogers chicken in Chicago."

In what I believe was an attempt at visually conveying the realities of Dave Spitz's worlds, sometimes scenes were super snowy and gray, other times they were sunny and sparkly. Dave's everyday world is glum, Dave's former life and former wife in Evanston is sunny and grand. "Look at that house," he says in voiceover. "People should be happy in that house."

Except that if it's snowing wildly in downtown Chicago, odds are that the sidewalks won't be perfectly clear and dry in Evanston in the time it takes him to pick up his son at a mall and drive him home. So the visual device left me wondering if it was intentional or if the crew just happened to shoot on sunny days in Evanston and snowy days in Chicago. I'm sure it was intentional - you know, arty - but on a literal level, it was distracting.

And let's talk about voiceover for a minute. Cage was brilliant playing the Kaufman brothers in "Adaptation," in which Brian Cox plays Robert McKee, screenwriting god, who practically spits venom as he tells his seminar attendees that voiceover in film is a screenwriter's biggest copout.

What feels like half of this film is told in voiceover. Charlie Kaufman would know better. Of course, "Adaptation" is full of voiceover, but Kaufman's in on his own joke.

L.A. Dave and I, when discussing films, often ask, "Who was this movie made for?" Given that this movie made just more than $12 million, the answer, apparently, is "Not enough people." It's bleak. It's depressing. It's gray. Cage plays pathetic well. But do you want to spend 101 minutes watching some poor schlub desperately grasping for a marriage that's long gone, searching for any glimmer of approval from his famous father, and taking Big Gulps to the head from passers-by?

No. Because with the exception of the Big Gulps, that pretty much describes a lot of people's real lives. No need to pay $9 to look in a mirror, nevermind the price of popcorn.

So the best thing about the movie, besides Hans Zimmer's decidedly un-Zimmer-like tracks, was a 10-second scene toward the top of the film. A couple was sitting on their couch, watching our anti-hero on TV. The man announced that the guy on the screen is "bullshit." The woman countered that she likes him because he's handsome.

The woman is the mom of one of my friends from high school. I recognized her instantly. I used to hang out at her house watching movies with her and her daughter, Debi. I always dug their relationship. It was the precursor to Lorelai and Rory in "Gilmore girls." She was an actress then and she's an actress now. I stopped the movie and skipped right to the credits to be sure. Yup, Joanne Sylvestrak. Go Joanne!

Her two lines were the best part of the movie.


Blogger Dave said...

Your friend's mom got even more play than she realized, as they used her scene in the trailer and a lot of the commercials I saw promoting the movie.

11:29 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well, how did I miss her in the trailer?

I must have been too focused on the shot of Cage getting smacked with a Frosty.

Thanks, Dave!

11:34 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Not having seen the film, it took a few moments to realize you weren't referring to Evanston, Wyoming (our nearest border town for purchasing the classic triumvirate of booze, fireworks, and porn). The perils of geocentricity.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hollyweird SUX!!! Why? Because they ignore Chicago for "major" movies, i.e. "Brokeback Mountain" released 8 weeks later in Chicago than when it premiered in LA. Why? Except for CRAPPY ASS John Cusack movies they ignore the importance of Chicago as a cultural center. If you KNOW Chicago geography, then just watch Keanu and Morgan in "Chain Reaction" and you'll see them on the North side, then on the south side in 2 minutes. They don't even hide the street signs. Holly weird SUX. HELL!!! Liberal Hollywood SUX!!!

6:07 PM  

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