In his introduction to one of the more recent editions to The Princess Bride, William Goldman talks about how the actual production of a movie is the least important step, like "a factory putting together a car". His rationale was that if you started with the right script, hired the right director and crew and cast the right people, the actual shooting of the movie was little more than the outcome of all that potential and talent that had already been built up; it should all come together like a Swiss watch. If I were to borrow that analogy and take it a step further, Weather Girl has hired a good cast and a competent director, who make the experience of the movie seem reasonably pleasant, but the screenplay -- the engine motivating this production -- is problematic and not as innovative as it should be.
These days, the "car situation" is complicated by the fact that, nine out of ten independent projects I see, the writer and director are one and the same. It's an industry of garage-band auteurs out there, all looking to make sure the screenplay they toiled over for years and years ends up on screen exactly the way they viewed it in their head. Since I am like everyone else, and I too have the same aspirations, I certainly understand the sentiment, but relinquishing even a little of that control to a co-writer or another director will bring the all-too-crucial element of perspective to a movie. In the case of Weather Girl, the perspective I would have sought out would have been a feminine one, since writer/director Blayne Weaver places himself on top of an already large pile of male filmmakers responsible for movies that fail the crucial Bechdel test: a) there must be two women in the movie, b) they must talk to each other and c) about something besides a man. Thanks to the efforts of the cast, the film overcomes the problems that stem from said failure to an extent, but when the "Weather Girl" in question, Sylvia (Tricia O'Kelley) has a slight panic attack in her brother's apartment after committing career suicide on live TV and the number one thing on her list of problems is the fact that she no longer has a boyfriend, I rolled my eyes a little.
To back up a step: "career suicide" for Sylvia involves ripping into her former lover, eternally congenial anchor Dale (Mark Harmon) on her crappy, jokey morning talk-slash-news show for cheating on her with the other anchor, Sherry ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" star Kaitlin Olson), by presenting Sherry's panties to the both of them and walking out. Her brother, Wade (Ryan Devlin), allows her to stay at his apartment, where she drowns her sorrows in the occasional beer and sleeps on the couch. One day, when she returns home, she discovers a stranger sitting at Wade's computer, who identifies himself as Byron (Patrick J. Adams), Wade's best friend and next-door neighbor.
The chemistry between O'Kelley, Devlin and Adams is really the backbone of what works about Weather Girl. Right from the beginning Byron makes no bones about his interest in Sylvia, who knocks him back a little amidst continued reeling from her televised breakup, but dives into a "no-strings-attached" sexual fling with him after a catastrophic date with a rich sleazebag (Jon Cryer in a very funny cameo). It takes little while for O'Kelley's charm to come out (because her character spends the first half-hour or so in a state of perpetual frustration), but when she warms up, the movie really takes off. Admittedly, I'm not sure I buy the burning passion between O'Kelley and Adams, but I do believe the friendship and banter between them, and I also buy the brother-sister bond between O'Kelley and Devlin, which isn't overplayed the way I've seen it done in lots of movies. The only time any scene involving more than one of the actors faltered for me comes near the end, where Wade makes not one but two Big Important Speeches to Byron and Sylvia separately; the speech to Byron I believe, but it seems ridiculous to me that he'd proceed to run across town to give a similar speech to his sister too.
Returning to the Bechdel test, there are a few questionable peripheral female characters who only exist to talk about men. Sylvia has two friends, Emily (Alex Kapp Horner) and Jane (Marin Hinkle), who act like stereotypical "girlfriends", trying to lift Sylvia's spirits but also being somewhat catty and critical of her love life. Olson is also basically wasted in a side role referred to more often as "the mousy bitch" than by the character's actual name. I understand that Olson's character Sherry is a love rival of Sylvia's and that friends can be lame, but there isn't a single scene in Weather Girl where Sylvia totally and completely gets along with another woman (which also includes Jane Lynch in a brief cameo as Sylvia's new boss), a fact that seems mighty distracting to me.
The plot winds itself around before coming to one of those massive, life-altering decisions that these kinds of movies usually arrive at, and I was conflicted by the situation it presents. Without getting too spoilery, Sylvia is forced to answer yes or no to a decision with two pieces to it, and it's clear that one of those two pieces is an absolute no-no. However, I'm not sure I buy that the other half of the decision is nearly as bad as the movie builds it up to be (the film suggests it would go against all the values that Sylvia stands for when it seems like it would offer her valuable stability). But Weather Girl isn't particularly interested in the nuts and bolts of the decision, nor any other parts of the outcome other than the more crowd-pleasing elements. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that -- the movie is definitely pleasing -- but I still think with a bit of perspective, it could have been more.
The DVD, Video and Audio
Weather Girl arrived in a paper sleeve, so I can't confidently grade the packaging, video and audio for this release, which looked kinda smeary and occasionally featured the subtitle "SCREENING COPY ONLY" during the movie. When Weather Girl arrives on DVD for real, it should include a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 5.1, and no subtitles.
The cardboard sleeve artwork I got makes no mention of the feature-length audio commentary by writer/director Blayne Weaver and actors Tricia O'Kelley, Ryan Devlin and Patrick J. Adams. It's one of those chatty, jokey-style tracks as opposed to a particularly informational track. Since the cast is one of the best things about Weather Girl, I can't say I minded that much, because it's funny (running Rubik's Cube jokes are a highlight) and listenable and I'm sure fans of the movie will enjoy it quite a bit, but at the same time, the track doesn't do anything to stand out among tracks of the same ilk, and it doesn't shine a light on Weaver's writing process at all.
2 extremely brief deleted scenes (1:54) and an outtakes reel (3:16), which are both sort of skippable, wrap up the bonus features. On the final DVD, there will also be a featurette, but apparently it wasn't done at the time they pressed these screeners, because it's listed on the menu but not selectable.
For some reason, the movie's original theatrical trailer also played before the movie. There are no other trailers before the menu.
The charms of Weather Girl may have been limited by the singular vision behind the movie, but there are definitely charms to be had. The DVD comes with a fairly funny audio commentary (although who knows how good the A/V quality is), so anybody looking for a lightly charming romance could do worse than to rent it and give it a spin.
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