There have been plenty of celebrities who have played themselves on the big and little screens previously, but it goes without saying that there has never been an actor like Nicolas Cage. With this in mind, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a film that simply couldn’t have worked with anybody other than Nicolas Cage in the lead.
Cage has his own unique levels of mystique; he’s an Academy Award winner who has been praised by many of his fellow actors and contemporaries as an all-time great, but he’s also slummed it through a series of uninspired VOD thrillers.
He was one of Hollywood’s most popular box office attractions at the height of his career, but he was also a source of fascination and memes, with his distinctive and customized performance approach making him the butt of as many jokes as he has been the subject of almost universally ecstatic praise.
Cage understands this, and stated that The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was the perfect opportunity to comply. Using it to its maximum by inserting semi-fictionalized Nick Cage into a wacky narrative of birthday parties, new friendships, drug cartels, kidnappings, family drama, the CIA, and so much more.
In the film, Nick is in a personal, professional, and existential crisis after failing to get a role in David Gordon Green’s new movie.
The fact that Nick is haunted by the ghost of his younger and more ambitious self, which urges him to stop focusing on being an actor and reclaim his A-list movie star status, is ignored. They argue, they chat, and even make out at one point since that’s what oddball quirks we’re used to seeing from the opening minute.
Nick is accosted by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz‘s federal agents, who task the action hero to go undercover on a special mission to assist them in cracking a high-profile abduction. But Cage soon finds himself forming a genuine bromance with Pedro Pascal‘s superfan, which is sealed over a screening of Paddington 2.
The bulk of that setup is crammed into the first act of Massive Talent, but things quickly go off the rails as a result. You don’t have to be a massive Nicolas Cage fan to enjoy the film; most of the wink-wink references are saved for name-drops of well known films or Cage stubbornly defending
Instead of playing the joke for all it’s worth, the greatest parts of Massive Talent come from Cage looking inward while still paying tribute to his illustrious past. He keeps claiming that it’s not a comeback because he never left; he simply needs the right part to back up his credentials once again. The fact that this particular project actually does that for him in real-life.
Similarly, while it would have been easy for Cage to go as broad as possible in his performance (which he does at times, though it’s done in the most endearing knowing way), he lands several emotional sequences that you wouldn’t expect in a tale like this. He recognizes his acting shortcomings, fathering abilities, marital deficiencies, and friendship failings.
It isn’t a solo effort by any means, with Pedro Pascal proving to be an absolute hoot as Javi. An aspiring screenwriter hoping to make his own and professional goals come true with a single flourish of his checkbook, he puts in just as much work as his counterpart to ensure the endearing dynamic between the two leads remains the driving force.
Despite Cage’s initial misgivings about being a hired attendee, he and Javi develop an immediate connection that carries the story and storytelling strain. They go diving off rocks in Spain, cruise the beautiful Mediterranean coast, get high on LSD, and freak out; they assist one another in becoming better people by declaring their love for each other.
The two of them are not afraid to bare it all, whether it’s the quiet and intimate encounters or the spectacular blockbuster madness plastered all over the advertising, with Pascal’s love for modest humor adding another stunning weapon to his already formidable arsenal.
The third act of Massive Talent, on the other hand, is by far the weakest, as it doesn’t do much to advance the already intriguing question of who Nick thinks he is and whether or not he’s who everyone thinks he is.
It’s not a coincidence that the tale weakens when authenticity and nuance are thrown out in favor of spectacle. It’s a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent genre-bending celebration of all things Cage, which also exemplifies other genres beautifully.
Nicolas Cage’s performance as Nick Cage, the fictitious mythology, who is haunted by the spirit of Nicky Cage in a film that meditates and ruminates on the past, present, and future of both real and fictional Cage is pure genius.
The reason it works and the impact it has on you is because of the energy that flows from so many genuine, honest sources.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is definitely worth your time, Nic Cage fan or not, you’ll definitely be satisfied with this film.
Covering superheroes, anything dark, horror, and more! Lead writer for Fan Fest