The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a tribute to an actor who has the same faith in his audience as they have in him. It’s infectious, funny, and madcap — a brilliant dose of comedic egotism and sobering humility. Cage and Pascal have terrific chemistry together.
This review of the film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent does not contain spoilers.
There are very few movie stars like Nicolas Cage. His latest film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, encompasses his madcap style and bravado. The healthy dose of comedic egotism and sobering humility could have been named “All Roads Lead to Here.” He’s a man known for taking risks early in his career that paid off handsomely. Then, Mr. Cage’s financial problems led to his reputation for taking any film to pay off his debts. Still, for an actor who has starred in some modern action classics (Face/Off, Con Air, and The Rock), quirky comedies (Raising Arizona, Peggy Sue Got Married, Moonlight and Honeymoon in Vegas), and award-winners (Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation), his decade run of independent film work has been extraordinarily risky. Oh, and there is Guarding Tess. Never disparage Guarding Tess, at least not in front of me.
Actors like John Travolta and Bruce Willis, who never have met a script they didn’t like, do not have a Mandy, Joe, Pig, or even Prisoners of Ghostland on their resumes in the past decade. Cage’s films may have gone straight to video, but you won’t find a generic thriller listed. Every choice is interesting, ranging from unusual to insane. He continued to make audacious choices throughout his career, even during his effort to stay afloat. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a tribute to that. The carrot at the end of the stick. The pot at the end of the rainbow. All roads have led to this moment, where younger fans who grew up watching him on TNT or streaming and older fans who watched him in the theaters can appreciate his gonzo storytelling choices.
Directed by Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment), who co-wrote the script with Kevin Etten (Workaholics, Reaper), the film takes the Cage persona to tell a fish out water buddy comedy that works. Partially, it is willing to make fun of itself as much as the star does. Nicolas Cage plays Nick Cage, whose star is fading, and he is now in massive debt. Cage is practically begging any director in town to cast him. He is going through a divorce with his wife, Olivia (Game Night’s Sharon Horgan). It has been tough on Cage. He is staying in a local hotel where he has run up a $600,000 bill. His daughter, Addy (Everybody’s Fine Lily Mo Sheen), is beginning to detest his ego and self-serving nature.
His manager, Richard (Neal Patrick Harris), comes up with an offer from a rich fan overseas. This billionaire superfan will pay him a cool million dollars if he shows up at his birthday party. It’s not just the money for Cage. He needs to feed the rat, which means staying in the spotlight as much as possible. So, the money allows him to stay afloat. He takes the trip to Javi Gutierrez’s (The Bubble’s Pedro Pascal) compound for the celebration. Javi has an obsession with Cage, but he is also the head of the Gutierrez crime family. When Cage arrives, he is informed by two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz) that Javi kidnapped the Mexican president’s daughter. They need his help, and who is better than the man that infiltrated Alcatraz, saved a prisoner transport, and got back Tess?
What The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent does so well never gives the viewer the impression that Cage, his craft, or even their industry is more important than it is. Yes, it is to him and others, but he recognizes that people want a good car chase and action-packed finale to forget the stresses of their day. His behavior constantly reminds us how out of touch he is with what his career means in the grand scheme of things. Sure, people love Cage, but he doesn’t pay the bills or bring sustained happiness. He is not what is essential in life, like family.
Cage is so funny in this role, poking fun at himself and reveling in his reputation for living life not to the fullest but to the excess. A simple YouTube search of Cage videos may make you think, he even underplays his eccentric style. For instance, in an interview with David Letterman, he admits to sitting in the dark, sipping a drink, and watching two vipers that he bought while locking eyes with him for hours. (Is that not a description of any villain in a superhero movie?). What you have here is essentially a buddy action comedy that wants to give the fans of Cage what they want, the respect he deserves, and a vehicle worthy of his exaggerated legend.
Cage and Pascal have absurd chemistry together. They are so much fun and unapologetic about their shared admiration. It is infectious. Here is just a dressed-up buddy comedy that gleefully understands the audience’s wants. While the third act may drag as it becomes the creation of what these characters detest, it is another example of the exaggerated importance. A tribute to an actor who put his faith in the audience as much as they had faith in him.
And that, my friends, is all The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is all about.
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