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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 28, 2022


Starring Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Sheen, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Paco León, Katrin Vankova, Luke McQueen, Joanna Bobin, Enrique Martínez, Manuel Tallafé, László Szívós, Ricard Balada, Rebecca Finch, David Gordon Green, Anna MacDonald and Demi Moore.

Screenplay by Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten.

Directed by Tom Gormican.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 107 minutes. Rated R.

For much of the last couple of decades, Nicolas Cage has been something of a Hollywood cautionary tale. Arguably one of the best actors in Hollywood for much of the 1980s and 1990s, Cage decided to go for superstardom with blatantly commercial sellout films like The Rock, Face/Off and National Treasure. However, then an extravagant lifestyle, some unexpected hardships and bad financial breaks put the guy in a huge hole, money-wise. Therefore, Cage decided there was just one way out of the quagmire – to take any job offered him, no matter what it was, just so long as it paid.

Soon Cage had gone from a serious actor who occasionally wallowed in trash to a parody of himself. He put together nearly 20 years of unrelenting junk like Ghost Rider, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Season of the Witch, Drive Angry, Knowing, The Wicker Man, Next, Vengeance: A Love Story and dozens of movies you’ve probably barely heard of – quite a few of which went straight to video or streaming. In fact, in that time, only Robert De Niro and Liam Neeson have come close to squandering their reputations as Oscar-worthy thespians so completely through their career choices.

However, now it seems that Cage has finally got his financial house in order. In fact, Cage has been refreshingly open about his money problems in recent interviews and seems to be in a good place. Now he can finally be a little more adventurous with his film choices. Last year he dipped his toe back into the kind of surreal artistic roles he made his name on with Michael Sarnoski’s Pig.

Now he is poking good-natured fun at his career and his reputation with The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a very meta comedy. Essentially, Nicolas Cage plays a comic variation of himself – a broken-down Hollywood star desperate for work who takes a million-dollar paycheck to show up at a super-fan’s birthday party in Mallorca, Spain, only to find himself thrown into the kind of action that his characters normally experience.

And, damn, it’s nice to see this side of Cage again. It reminds us of how fun Cage is as a light comedian. (Remember Valley Girl, Moonstruck, Honeymoon in Vegas and Peggy Sue Got Married?)

Massive Talent has a fun, self-deprecating vibe that shows us again what an intriguing – if slightly odd – dude Nick Cage can be. Cage goes gamely all in, playing himself in a way that is both serious and ridiculous at the same time. He is totally believable at being totally neurotic, massively self-absorbed, and strangely self-confident. While yes, we do get that this isn’t the real Cage, just a goof on his reputation, somehow it feels real.

Antiaging CGI and a longer hairdo also allow Cage to portray a younger, cockier version of himself in some fantasy sequences – and in a nice touch, this variation of himself is played, according to the end credits, by Nicolas Kim Coppola (the actor’s birth name).

The film also takes good-natured pot shots at some of the gigs Cage has taken over the years, such as Gone in 60 Seconds, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Croods 2 and Guarding Tess.

The story itself is kind of silly – but it’s not supposed to be taken seriously. The man whose party Cage has been hired to appear at might be a ruthless cartel gang leader, putting Cage in the middle of organized crime, the CIA and Spanish politics. All the while, Cage is trying to bridge the gap with his ex-wife and slightly estranged teenaged daughter.

However, even if his part is formula, Pedro Pascal gets some massive laughs as the possible crime lord who becomes Cage’s buddy-film partner. Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz also have some funny moments as two CIA agents who try to recruit Cage to help them take down the cartel and to find the kidnapped daughter of a local politician – who just happens to be a Nick Cage fanatic.

However, the story is just window dressing. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent rises and falls on Cage’s good-natured willingness to mock his own Hollywood legend. Not as gimmicky or surreal as John Malkovich’s performance in Being John Malkovich, it still offers the vicarious thrill of spending time with an eccentric personality who we have known for decades – even if we know that we really aren’t.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent may not be the truth, but wouldn’t it be nice if it were? More importantly, for the first time in decades, the world has reason to look forward to what Nicolas Cage has coming up for us.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: April 21, 2022.

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