Only a certain type of thespian skillfully trained in the fine art of acting can find and accept a role, star in a leading role like this in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and play said role with a commitment that boasts absolute conviction. That thespian is none other than Nicolas Cage who plays the leading role of you guessed it, Nicolas Cage. Whether it’s low budget, straight to home video, independent, or a blockbuster, what hasn’t Cage done in his illustrious career? That’s right, play himself, and take it completely seriously which in turn makes the viewer that much more invested – he’s the perfect fit, he doesn’t even need to read for the part, but he will. Who on this earth doesn’t want to see that?
Cage has amassed a cult following within every generation of movie-goers finding their film of his of a certain era, associating with it for the rest of their lives and sticking with the actor through thick and thin, good times and bad. Maybe he is a cult leader and we’re all under his spell – how would we know? Regardless of if the movie he appears in is bad, we all are there for the same reason, basking in the glory of the man, the myth, the legend, Nicholas Cage.
For 107 glorious minutes, Cage isn’t even trying, he’s a natural, going full method to play the one role he is destined to play. And it absolutely works the way it was intended by co-screenwriter Kevin Etten and director Tom Gormican who fully grasp the concept of the unconditional love fans have with the star that never stops working. Opening the film in the only logical way – a young couple finishing Con-Air while the woman is kidnapped shortly after. The teenage girl takes action after avoiding one masked goon mimicking what Cage would do if he was in the same dangerous situation. No truer line of dialogue can be written about Cage – he is a “fucking legend”. She gives it her best effort. Once the music fades away Gormican puts us in the same car with Cage on his way to meet with a director for a role he most likely won’t get but will put all the effort into performing a monologue with a Bostonian accent, the actor’s façade of the good life and another breakout role to stay relevant is up for grabs.
When the curtain is pulled back, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, clout will only get you so far. Cage is broke, alienated by his talented make-up artist ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and 16-year-old daughter Addy (Lily Sheen) while running up an expensive tab in the hotel he’s quote unquote staying in. His agent Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) isn’t making the situation any better – offering appearance paydays to show up at birthday party’s. To add more fuel to the fire, Addy didn’t even like nor appreciate the classic 1920 German expressionist silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Shame on you Addy, shame, for thinking that about Humphrey Bogart.
German expressionist cinema and appreciation for it aside, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent starts and stays firmly in its lane, self-aware throughout but never once overstaying it’s welcome. The meta moments (and there’s plenty to gush over) are few and far between that are added when the time calls for it. Nicholas Cage getting pep talks from his younger self ‘Nicky Cage’ is one thousand percent plausible to the actor’s enigma. Nicky is there consistently reminding his current aged self that he’s a movie star that transcends acting – a global generational talent.
Arthouse pieces be damned according to Nicky the fearless. And once it goes too far, once Nicolas crosses that line with the ghost of Cage past, there’s no stopping it, we as the audience fully accept the back-and-forth neurosis playing out before our eyes. When the camera pulls back after the close shot and its Cage talking to absolutely no one, Gormican and Cage make the moment that much more hilariously meta.
Massive Talent’s narrative than follows Cage taking the payday after not getting the role that would be his way back to the mountaintop and quitting acting – extra extra someone tell the trades that Nic Cage is through with storytelling and myth making. Landing in Spain to meet with Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), the inviter who happens to be a superfan who wrote his own script and may just be an international criminal on the CIA’s most wanted list – Cage is far from thrilled to be here, we’ll just be happy for him. After the two take a karate bow of admiration to one another, the tone steeped in self indulgence shifts to a self reflective one toward oneself blended with a buddy adventure that’s engaging throughout the runtime.
Following up one of the best performances of his career playing the character Robin in last years Pig, Cage satirically plays himself as a brooding, narcissistic, elitist with a personality that’s utterly repulsive yet strangely magnetic. From the looks of it, he’s having a blast and it shows through his performance. Characters are drawn to him as if he’s the center of gravity. Even Cage the character thinks he’s the center of attention – everyone and everything is about him. His favorite movies, authors are the only ones that matter. Opposite him is Pedro Pascal who is purely delightful – the two together are like Shaq and Kobe, one can’t survive without the other and if the two happen to be separated, all hope is lost.
Split between the bromance is a spy thriller that’s more comedy than anything else. Once Cage arrives in Spain, he’s made by CIA operatives Martin (Ike Barinholtz) and Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) who argue over Moonstruck and The Croods 2. The two subsequently hijack Cage’s vacation for the sake of national security (possible title for the 3rd National Treasure film, maybe?).
What works for Gormican and Etten’s script is elevated by the committed performances and juvenile fun chemistry of Cage and Pascal providing just the cheesy good time re-discovering some overlooked corners of Cage’s filmography. Witty dialogue and the pair’s comedic timing stand out the most of their bromance. The sheer genius of dropping LSD to get inspiration to write they’re screenplay. They’re paranoia while tripping is an example of Cage and Pascal willing to be in the moment. Without knowing it, Javi saves Cage from his vanity while the human villain Lucas (Paco León) can be forgiven as the one blemish on an otherwise fun time at the theater. I don’t mind the generic throwaway character, the journey Gormican takes us on is what will sell fans. I was sold instantly and couldn’t get on the ride fast enough.
Massive Talent has something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of Cage or not, no matter the era, the nostalgia presented is sure to make anyone go back and revisit the actor’s filmography. Though only April, Gormican proves that a comedy of this magnitude is still relevant while being on many’s most anticipated lists. Totally worth every moment of awesomeness, this is one Cage film that will be unanimously loved by his following. Cage serves a reminder that he’s not going anywhere – the Cageissance is entering a new chapter. I like many others are eagerly waiting to see what he does next.
Written By: Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten
Directed By: Tom Gormican
Music By: Mark Isham
Cinematography: Nigel Bluck
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish
Release Date: April 22, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%
My Score: 4 out of 5