The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Nick Cage’s (Nicolas Cage) obsession with achieving a state of Zen purity in his chosen art has driven a wedge between himself and his daughter Addy (Lily 'daughter of Michael' Sheen, "Underworld: Evolution"), the person he professes to love above all else. Then his agent, Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), reports that he’s lost the role he wanted more than anything and dad gets drunk at her sixteenth birthday party. Driven back to his home at the Sunset Tower Hotel by his disgusted ex Olivia (Sharon Horgan, "Together," a huge plus), Nick really hits bottom, locked out over his unpaid $600K bill, and so he accepts the only offer on the table - $1 million to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday in Mallorca under “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.”
Laura's Review: B
The concept of an actor portraying a fictionalized version of himself in a movie is nothing new (see “Being John Malkovich” and “Zombieland” for starters). Nor is the idea of casting an actor confronting his own younger self (see “Gemini Man” and “Looper”). But what the writers of TV’s ‘Ghosted,” Kevin Etten and Tom Gormican (who also makes his feature directorial debut), thought of was to use these concepts in a movie about an actor who has remained true to himself whether starring in a film that would win him an Oscar, a Jerry Bruckheimer popcorn actioner or a cheesy straight-to-video throwaway. That that actor, Nicolas Cage, has been enjoying a ‘Cage-issance’ of late makes their gambit particularly savvy.
Is their movie any good? Well, it’s also one of the ‘meta’ movies that is in vogue right now, a movie where Cage’s costar, Pedro Pascal ("Wonder Woman 1984"), plays an international arms trader and drug lord who is such a fan of Cage that he’s written a script for him, and so we watch a movie during which a movie is not only developed but gradually turns into that movie. And again, casting is essential here, Pascal a worthy bro to romance the Cage, because truthfully, the movie that they star in wouldn’t be given a second thought was it not for its ‘Caginess.’
As soon as the movie begins, we’re thrown into another. The camera pulls back to reveal a scene from “Con Air” is actually being watched by Maria Delgado (Katrin Vankova), a super fan who barely gets to express her delight before she’s kidnapped by black clad commandos. We’re then whiplashed to L.A. where Nic drives a black muscle car up to the Chateau Marmont to discuss a part with its director (Cage's "Joe" director, David Gordon Green), Cage’s first opportunity to turn on the theatrics while delivering one of the most credible Boston accents ever committed to film. He’ll also frequently get advice from Nicky (billed as Nicolas Kim Coppola), his younger self circa “Wild at Heart,” who pops up occasionally, digitally de-aged in a borderline creepy “Polar Express” kind of way. But his home life is another story, his attempts to share what he loves with his daughter, like the silent German “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” interpreted as selfish and suffocating.
He’s no sooner off his plane to Mallorca, prepared to retire from acting with this gig, when he unwittingly crosses paths with CIA agent Vivian (Tiffany Haddish), who is investigating the man, Javi Gutierrez, Cage is there to entertain. It will not be until Cage has bonded with Javi, though, that Vivian approaches him to help her mission to recover Delgado, the daughter of Gutierrez’s political rival, believed to be held in Javi’s basement.
There are Cage movie references galore, a palm hold fist salute, repeated invocations of his own name (Nicolas F’in Cage!) that leap into crescendos, a CIA directed escape while on acid and teary-eyed screenings of “Paddington 2.” And it is these notes and not the song they sing that makes “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” a titular comic riff on “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” so entertaining. In the end the Nicolas Cage movie Nick Cage inhabits is far too generic and commercial to be a 2020’s Nicolas Cage movie, but the movie about him being in that movie is just right.
Robin's Review: B
I think there are two kinds of people: those who love, love, love Nicolas Cage and those who do not. I am one of the band of crackpots that appreciates our on-screen hero so I looked forward to seeing a Nic Cage movie, starring Nic Cage and about Nic Cage. I was not disappointed and had a ball seeing the iconic star playing himself in a kooky story that can only be called a kitchen sink of a movie.
For the fans, I suggest compiling a list of all Cage movies THEN watch “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” and tick off all you can recognize, kind of like an oddball version of “Where’s Waldo?” I wish I had the forethought to do that. I guess I’ll have to watch it again and do my own checklist.
Lionsgate opens "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" in theaters on 4/22/22.