Guarding Tess
Director: Gore Verbinski

Director: Hugh Wilson

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The Weather ManFrom the first words out of his mouth, "That was refreshing," Nicolas Cage as tv weather man David Spritz seems likely to be turning in a brilliantly poker-faced funny & simultaneously tragic performance in The Weather Man (2005).

As it develops, the script really doesn't quite live up to his performance, but it's nevertheless a film with charm.

David lives a life of wealth & privilege yet is a man of dissatisfaction, insecurity, loneliness, & needless dispair, with a small child's eagerness to please his father Robert (Michael Caine) whose life of genius no one could live up to.

His father has an advanced case of lymphoma & won't be around much longer to try to please. In reality his father is not displeased with his son's life, but as a well-paid weather man on the daily news, the cartwheels of joy & praise Cage's character wants from his dad were never forthcoming, nor should've been.

The Weather ManHe nevertheless puts his dying father in the sorry position of having to help his son's selfishly emotonal crisis, & dad does rise to the occasion, not that David will ever really know it.

Stuff that would be no big deal to most guys are humliating to David. In fact this self-absorbed character would be pretty easy to despise except the one point at which he seems actually to care about others, & that is when he is considering his children.

Divorced with two children, his son has lately been befriended by a pedarast. When no one else will listen to the boy, his dad David is the only one who even attempts to do the right thing.

Then there's his daughter, fat & rebellious, not an easy kid to like at this stage, but David never for a moment feels anything but love for her, though he feels inadequate to her needs. He loves & embraces her even at her least appealing moments.

The Weather ManHis mom does a "living funeral" while Robert's still alive, at which the son David fails to say anything valuable, & sinks further into his feelings of worthlessness.

He's offered a million dollar job that'll turn him into a real television personality, but nothing he succeeds at seems to cancel out all the ways he feels like a failure.

The message here is that life is shitty for everyone, rich or poor, & success in one's economic life is not the same as success at life. There's nevertheless an endless feeling that David's a dumbass. Though not all that great a film, it is nevertheless well acted & it's not the usual formula film Hollywood usually foists onto the public.

By never acknowledging at any point that he's a rich fuck who actually has it pretty easy, or that his dad dying of lymphoma might be heavier than feeling like he didn't personally succeed at being impressive at the living funeral, he just looks like a shallow disgusting ass.

Had The Weather Man starred anyone other than Nicolas Cage (himself a privileged-class guy with bouts of depression & self-doubt in his career), all this "me me ME!" whinging & whining wouldn't've been worth watching at all.

Guarding Tess (1994) is an absurd idea for a film played out with real humanity & heroism, about a cross-generational relationship that stops just short of romantic comedy.

Guarding TessThe "affair" regards the widowed former First Lady of the United States (Shirley MacLaine) & her young Secret Service bodyguard (Nicolas Cage).

She's cranky, unreasonable, & adorable; he's got a stick up his butt & wants to be a soldier, not a nursemaid. They start out seriously at odds & he just wants another detail. Their interactions eventually evolve into a veritable if not literal love affair.

Hang the "mother & son" parallel on it if that makes it easier to swallow, but fact is, it's the classic romantic comedy scenario, & if they'd been close to the same age it'd'd ended with them getting engaged.

If Doug is Tess's surrogate son (her actual son is not much to write home about), Doug at least does not appear to look to Tess as a mothering figure. He seems to have other motivations, which come closer to a troubadour-knight who has fallen in love with the king's wife but only as a spiritual symbol on which to hang every sentiment of goodness & duty.

For decades now, MacLaine has been one of our greatest character actors. She went from one of the most beautiful & skillful young actresses in phenomenal comedies like Irma la Douce (1963) or the gutwrenching drama of The Apartment (1960), & as time ticked by elected to age healthily & naturally & rely on her acting brilliance for "old lady" roles that upraised ordinary films like Steel Magnolia (1988) & to cement the extraordinary perfection of her dramatic skills in Madame Sousatzka (1989).

Guarding TessAnd Cage is a fine enough actor, too. Sure, he makes a lot of action stinkers. But always in him is the capacity for marvelously over-the-top humor as in Raisig Arizona (1987), or absurdist drama as in that little masterpiece Vampire's Kiss (1989).

Opposite MacLaine he has to play it straight enough for his frustrations & fears, & their relationship, to seem utterly real; & yet he just as fully gets at the comedy of their clashing-and-meshing personalities.

Guarding Tess moves into a suspense plot-thread when Tess is kidnapped & Doug has more than his duty pushing him forward to save her. As a tale of crime & suspense it's not as interesting as it is an off-trail romantic comedy, though the danger Tess is in gets pretty extreme.

There's really no more to the film than that, & it never ceases to be trivial, as are virtually all writer-director Hugh Wilson's films, from Police Academy (1984) to Dudley Do-right (1999). Guarding Tess is even so well-acted & engaging, even perhaps a shining jewel of lightweight cinema

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]