The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
(Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tom Gornican, Tiffany Haddish, et. Al | R | 1 hr 46 min | Lionsgate)
Overview: Short on cash and creative fulfillment, Hollywood star Nick Cage befriends a wealthy Spaniard and has to use every skill as a thespian in order to find what he’s lacking in life — and to help stop a dangerous arms cartel.
Verdict: Everybody has an opinion about Nicolas Cage. Most people tend to view him as either a total joke, or a complete genius. Knowing this, and knowing that his status as Academy Award Winner and Internet Meme are mutually inclusive, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent swings hard for the fences and hits one home run after another.
The plot of #MassiveTalent seems ridiculous — Nicolas Cage plays himself (two versions, actually) and attends the birthday party of a very rich man, Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal). While in Mallorca, he gets roped into a CIA surveillance plot to rescue a politician’s daughter from an arms dealer. It seems ridiculous, because it is.
But what makes it work is Cage himself — not only how good of a sport he is to undertake such a thing, but also the range he presents in doing so. Cage is first, “Nick,” the actor we all know, who is deep in debt, estranged from his daughter, and not getting the sorts of roles he used to.
But at various times, he’s a younger version of himself, “Nicky,” who is tough, wild, and suffers no fools. Not since Adaptation has Cage managed to act alongside himself so convincingly. And his physical comedic timing is impeccable.
The other half of this winning combination is scene stealer Pedro Pascal as Javi, a Nicolas Cage super fan (complete with a Cage filmography memorabilia room) and wannabe screenwriter with whom Nick becomes fast friends after having agreed to make an appearance at his birthday party.
Having only known Pascal from roles in which his characters take a decidedly darker tone (Narcos, The Madalorian), to see him so effortlessly play comedy makes it abundantly clear exactly why he’s such a sensation. And as an aside, it was nice to see Pascal speak his native Spanish, as I’ve always wanted to see him in a Spanish-language feature. This will have to do for now, I guess.
Indeed, the natural chemistry between Cage and Pascal makes Nick and Javi’s (mis)adventures the silly buddy movie you never knew you needed. Of course, things get a little dramatic in the third act, and neither the interactions between the two, nor the individual performances, falter when that change occurs.
The movie is rife with references to its star’s filmography, with footage from Con-Air and Guarding Tess being played on screens at various points, and many more titles just mentioned in the dialogue. A well-placed reference to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin was the highlight of the film for this particular diehard Cage fan.
And for the viewers who may be equally or more drawn to that over-the-top, meme-ified version of Nicolas Cage will be glad to see a few of those moments in there, too. (Part of the #MassiveTalent lore says that Nic himself added a Wicker Man “not the bees!” homage into the script).
In short, there’s a Cage-ism for everybody.
The ante is upped when the credits roll and the audience sees that “Nick Cage” is played by Nicolas Cage, while alter-ego “Nicky” is played by one Nicolas Kim Coppola. If you know, you know. And if you don’t, look it up.
On the technical side, the movie is beautifully lit and wonderfully shot, making the most of the beautiful seaside scenery. Writer-Director Tom Gormican is one to be praised, even if his movie feels a bit longer in places than it actually is, and even if the language is, at times, unnecessarily coarse.
While Cage and Pascal carry the film themselves, the supporting cast members aren’t slouches, with Tiffany Haddish shining as Vivian, the more charismatic of the two CIA agents who enlist Nick’s help to take down the local trafficker. Ike Barinholtz is underused in this same capacity, but not missed. Lily Sheen is excellent as Addy, Nick’s estranged daughter while Neil Patrick Harris is nothing super special as Nick’s agent.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is, more or less, the ultimate Nicolas Cage experience, a ridiculous, riotous joyride through one man’s fictionalized existential crisis.
Review by: Ashley J. Cicotte
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent arrives only in cinemas April 22, 2022.