DUBBY’S DVDISCUSSION: Slices of real life


If you’re into words like ‘alienation’ and ‘non-communication’, if you’ve done the whole Pinter, Satre, Lonesco et cetera number, you’ll love Shopgirl and The Weatherman. Both are slices-of-life.

Shopgirl was produced by subcontinental Amritraj and the dialogue is sparse, spare and the last three words sum up the movie. The Weatherman has a fast food spattered anti-hero, a four letter word littered script and two great actors who should have been in another film. But let’s hear it from Real Critics and Michael Caine.

Writes Doug Thomas, “Any fan of Steve Martin’s 2000 novella will enjoy this pitch-perfect adaptation, which glowingly captures the bittersweet tones of a May-September romance. Martin wrote the screenplay and stars as Ray Porter, a button-down 50-something executive who reaches out to a much younger woman as a Los Angeles playmate. The book and movie, though, are both primarily about Mirabelle (Claire Danes), a 20-something with a pile of promises, debt, and depression, as she fades away into a slow corner of Saks selling unneeded formal gloves. She’s a wisp of a person, with a cat who doesn’t love her, and when she finds a suitor, it’s Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a scruffy artist who babbles on about speakers. When the gentlemanly Porter calls, his appearance in her life begins to make her whole. It also immediately sets her up for sadness — Ray thinks of Mirabella as a precious outlet for sex, while Mirabelle, very mistakenly, sees Ray as a potential lifelong mate.”

Adds Peter Debruge, “Danes is a jewel in the lead, perfectly capturing a young woman passively waiting for her life to happen to her rather than taking the reins. Naturally, Martin gives himself the meatier of the male roles as the debonair divorcé competing with Schwartzman’s self-absorbed young suitor for Mirabelle’s affections, but it’s a sign of Martin’s maturity that he’s willing to expose the gray areas in Porter’s personality.”

Of The Weatherman Robert Horton analyses, “Nobody does comic existential angst like Nicolas Cage, who gets a good workout in The Weatherman, an underrated slice of quiet desperation. Cage plays David Spritz, a Chicago TV meteorologist who knows only too well the constant uncertainty of predicting the weather. Despite a possible offer from a network morning show, David’s life is a mess: he’s estranged from his kids and irritated wife (Hope Davis), he’s perpetually at odds with his remote father (Michael Caine), and lately people on the street have had the disconcerting habit of throwing food at him. Director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean) has perhaps too heavy a touch for this kind of comic melancholy, but screenwriter Steven Conrad has an interesting, almost Mamet-like ear for ‘written’ dialogue — Cage has a few voiceover monologues, including an uproarious sequence involving tartar sauce and a walk to the store.”

Caine says, “The Weatherman is very, very unusual, which is what attracted me to it in the first place because I had never seen a script like it before and I’m in a stage in my life where I keep trying to do things in my life which are absolutely different than anything I’ve ever done before. This certainly is, and it’s very funny, it’s very sad and it’s very dramatic. I suppose what it really is, is real life with the dull bits cut out. This really is a dysfunctional family, extraordinarily dysfunctional but funny and understandable. The comedy is not done for fun, it comes out of real people in real situations, the sadness is the same. So it’s a slice of real life if you were very unfortunate with your family.”