The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a personal reflection of a tumultuous career, which connects with the audience earnestly.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all laid our boot into Nicolas Cage at some point over the past few years. It’s hard not to when he has been pumping out C-grade fluff like fairy floss at a funfair. His stumble in La La Land was epic and it seemed perpetual. With the Oscar-winner dishing up junk like Left Behind and Season of the Witch to cover his mounting real estate acquisitions and various debts, it was easy to miss the great stuff he made in between.
Those paying closer attention will know that for every bad Cage movie there was a good one – titles like Joe, The Frozen Ground and Dog Eat Dog were seemingly overlooked in favour of bagging out on the poor guy. But then something happened and Cage turned it all around by embracing a side of cinema that celebrates the weirder brand of filmmaking. Almost overnight he had redeemed himself and regained his reputation for being outlandish and outrageous.
Consequently, audiences were treated to a smorgasbord of movies for the cult and arthouse sections of proverbial video stores. Within just a few short years Cage has clocked up titles like Mandy, The Color Out of Space, Prisoners of the Ghostland and Pig, to great fanfare.
This brings us to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a film that not only builds upon Cage’s newfound niche but also mines those aforementioned low years for material. The tagline reads “Nicolas Cage is Nick Cage” and boy does he play both with delight.
No longer at the top of the A-list, Nicolas Cage spends his days schmoozing with directors and producers, desperately trying to reignite his career. An early interaction in the film has him pleading with real-life filmmaker David Gordon Green, who had previously directed him in Joe, and it is obvious that Cage’s own sense of self-worth is perhaps his biggest flaw.
When his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) presents an opportunity to attend a party for a wealthy fan in southern Spain for one million dollars, he begrudgingly agrees.
Upon his arrival, Cage is pulled aside by CIA agents who reveal that his host for the weekend is actually the head of an arms cartel and the most feared crime lord in Spain. With Cage’s presence being an unexpected hindrance for the agents, they enlist his help to spy on the crime boss and assist in their rescue of the daughter of Spain’s president, who has been kidnapped for political gain.
Never mind the complexity of the film’s synopsis because all you need to know is that The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a hysterical tour de force that showcases the very same things that Cage facetiously prides himself on.
Not only does it exploit his famously neurotic and over-the-top charisma, it also reminds us of the player he once was, with an assortment of throwbacks to films of his past. Super fans (can we call them Cagelings?) will peak with references to movies like The Rock, Con-Air and Gone in 60 Seconds, amongst so many more – including his own self-proclaimed “underappreciated” gems, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Guarding Tess.
If the premise seems familiar it’s because actors playing themselves in movies isn’t a new idea, and there’s an easy comparison to be made with Being John Malkovich, which in turn was followed up by the spin-off film Adaptation, starring… you guessed it, Nicolas Cage. What sets this new film apart is the splicing of action and espionage genres with comedy that is grounded and carefully controlled to avoid slapstick impulses. Yes it’s silly, and yes it’s farcical, but no one gag is told sparingly.
The poster for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has Cage billed twice because he is, obviously, the star of the film. But there hasn’t been a time in his career where he has come this close to being upstaged by a co-star. Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) is the perfect sparring partner for Cage and his performance is amongst the best you are likely to see this year. The ability to combine comedy with drama is a delicate balance and Pascal offers a remarkable display of range. When he’s funny he’s hilarious and when he’s scary he’s terrifying.
Reportedly, Cage turned down the film numerous times but finally surrendered to it following a personal handwritten note from director Tom Gormican, who marks this as his sophomore movie following That Awkward Moment.
It was a smart decision on Cage’s part because The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a personal reflection of a tumultuous career, which connects with the audience earnestly. It’s not so much self-deprecating but rather self-appreciating, and totally glorious.
In cinemas: April 21, 2022
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish
Directed by: Tom Gormican