“The Weatherman”: Toxically Comforting Malaise

“The Weatherman” is about a tragic figure who never got over his yuppie disillusionment. On paper he’s a success by societal standards. David Spritz (Nicholas Cage) makes millions by standing in front of a green screen and gesturing in mid-air as though he knows something about meteorology. He doesn’t have to try to womanize. His career is constantly escalating but he couldn’t feel more indifferent about it. His success has nothing to do with who he is and everything to do with how good he is at faking an image of himself. On the surface, this is the modern-day American dream: a lottery ticket which allows him to live comfortably with little exertion. But it’s a semblance of success that only accents how much of a loser he feels inside. It’s the only thing he’s ever been valued for but it’s an ability which is so inessential to his identity that the more he’s praised for it, the more he feels the absence of genuine love. He’s fated to live a victim to this curse disguised as a gift. The universe has played a cruel joke on him, and it corrodes his soul from the inside out. 

Maybe if he wasn’t fed crumbs of counterfeit love, he wouldn’t have anything to fall back on and circumstances would force him to recalibrate his values. The false love he garners from his career conditions him to value himself only insofar as he can deftly pull off a seductive self-image. Extending this logic to his personal life is what insulates him in a spiritual vacuum. When he tries to give other people love, it’s only so that he’ll receive love in return. It’s a self-serving appearance of love that defeats the purpose of genuine love. He routinely tries to derive the authentic from the synthetic. He’s not a repellently self-absorbed character, he’s more like misguided. He’s like a lab rat who keeps trying to secure the cheese but every time he presses his precious little paw to the item of desire, he’s rewarded with electric shockwaves. But, being hopelessly oblivious, he continues to reach for the cheese, shockwave after shockwave, until he becomes internally dead. But even though he’s dead, he persists because he cannot conceive of any other recourse. 

He clings to the only promises of love that he felt life ever offered him. He doesn’t know when to let things die because he can’t ever let things go. His self-esteem is in such shambles that any impact inflames the raging inadequacy within him. Both of his kids and have a passive contempt for him which they’ll only realize when they grow older. His ex-wife thinks he’s a pathetic excuse for a person. His dad, Robert  (who, by the way, resembles a solemn Kermit the Frog), is so good at being a passive-aggressive abuser that David doesn’t even realize how cruel he (Robert) is. David seems developmentally stunted, as though as an adolescent he never went through the uncontrollable spells of anger and resentment which immunize most adults against repression. The result is a comatose, numb, apparition-like state. It’s a headspace which sedates him to any natural emotions, rendering him as dulled as domesticated animal. 

The movie is a brilliant expression of the sort of incurable alienation that afflicts the masses. It’s a very recognizable brand of modern day malaise. An oppressive, meaningless suffering which has no discernible origin or cure, and which isolates people in their own personal torture-chambers. Except the torture is not immediate and apparent, it’s elusive and gradually poisonous. 

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