There’s no doubt Nicolas Cage has had one of the most interesting careers of any acting A-lister. The Oscar winner was a box office magnet in the 90s, starring in some of the biggest blockbusters of the time, including Face/Off and Con-Air. More recently, he has been seen in more obscure VOD films such as Prisoners of the Ghostland, and independent films like Pig. The actor is clearly at a different stage in his life, and is taking the less conventional approach to Hollywood - which he can afford to do as the household name he is. The proof is in his new film, THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT, where he plays his wildest role to date - himself.
In this self-aware action comedy, a fictionalised version of Cage is at a standstill in his career and has a substantial amount of debt. His ex-wife (Sharon Hogan) is sick of his antics, and he has a strained relationship with his daughter (Lily Sheen). Cage is seriously considering retirement and reluctantly accepts a million dollar offer to appear at wealthy fan Javi’s (Pedro Pascal) birthday party in Spain.
However, Cage soon finds himself caught up in a plot reminiscent of one of his very own far-fetched films. Javi is the head of a dangerous cartel and has kidnapped the daughter of a presidential candidate. The CIA uses Cage as an informant, which sees him channel one of the many heroes he’s famous for playing, and indulge Javi’s filmmaking fantasies to get close to him.
On paper, this concept could come off as pretentious and simply an exercise in ego for Cage. It is anything but this. Cage isn’t afraid to take the mickey out of himself and poke fun at Hollywood and his movie star persona. The result is a laugh out loud, satirical and wildly entertaining romp, which at its heart is a straight-up buddy comedy and love letter to storytelling.
It’s obvious that director/writer Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Ettern have a lot of love for Cage. Fans will be delighted with references, throwbacks and Easter eggs associated with his iconic roles, from The Rock to Mandy. Cage also has visions and speaks to a de-aged Wild at Heart version of himself, which is simultaneously hilarious and terrifying. One particularly memorable scene sees Javi proudly show the actor his excessive Nick Cage shrine, complete with a statue of Cage which he calls ‘grotesque’. It’s evident that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and the film is all the better for it. Even audiences who aren’t familiar with Cage’s body of work can find something to enjoy, specifically the film’s central bromance.
Cage and Pedro Pascal make for a brilliant comedic duo, and it's the relationship between Nick and Javi that is the heart of this film. Both are at a point where they’re stuck and unfulfilled - Cage in his career, and Javi in his crime family, when really he wants to fulfill his creativity. It’s natural that the two are drawn to each other, and Cage and Pascal’s chemistry radiates off the screen. They clearly had a blast making this, and Javi’s delight at spending time with Cage is endlessly charming. Pascal firmly holds his own on screen, even in Cage’s presence, and proves he has the comedic chops needed for a film like this.
Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, comedic actors in their own right, aren’t given as much to do as CIA agents Vivian and Martin, but deliver with the material they do have. One could also argue that the film could have pushed its meta commentary on Cage’s career even further, but perhaps that would have been a distraction from the film’s heart and made it less accessible to a wider audience.
THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT will remind audiences why Nicholas Cage remains such a beloved force in Hollywood, no matter what role he’s taking on. This is not simply a showcase for Cage, but a celebration of the craft he’s dedicated his life to. It is ridiculously fun thanks to the pairing of Cage and Pascal, and one of the funniest, and surprisingly heartwarming, films of the year so far.