The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent Review

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
Stuck in a slow career decline, actor Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage) decides to retire — but not before banking $1 million for appearing at the birthday party of wealthy mega-fan Javi (Pedro Pascal). Unfortunately for the movie star, Javi is a drug lord suspected of kidnapping, and the CIA wants Cage to help.

by Dan Jolin |
Original Title:

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent

“I’m an actor,” declares Nick Cage, in the role of his lifetime, playing Nick Cage. “No! You’re a fucking movie star, don’t you forget this!” screams back another Cage, digitally de-aged to his youthful, Wild At Heart heyday as a roaring ego-phantom version of the actor (playfully credited as ‘Nicky Kim Coppola’). We’ve seen Cage acting opposite himself before (to Oscar-nominated acclaim in Adaptation), and we’ve seen him frolicking in a meta playground, too (Adaptation, again). But Tom Gormican’s The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent — title of the year, no arguments — catapults it all to a whole new level.

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent

The movie won’t disappoint Cage aficionados. It opens with a clip from Con Air, contains tongue-in-cheek nods to The Croods 2, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Guarding Tess, and features a scene packed with Cage-flavoured props, from Mandy’s chainsaw to the twin gold guns from Face/Off.

Cage himself has never been more game. It’s one thing to eat a cockroach (as he did for Vampire’s Kiss); it’s a whole other to chew up and spit out your own career with an accepting self-awareness of every criticism levelled at you (“You seem to be working all the time,” his therapist notes) and turn it into a full-blown comedy.

The real double act here is not Nick and Nicky, but Cage and Pascal.

But what lies beyond the film’s central self-efface/off conceit? You’d be forgiven for expecting a bit of an indulgent binge, with little more to offer than the first-world-problem tussle between Cage’s fragile worth as an “actor” and his diminishing stature as “a movie star”. However, while the overarching plot knowingly pings between the Cagey extremes of adult, character-driven drama and cojone-swinging action bombast, what really emerges is a surprisingly sweet and affecting buddy comedy.

The real double act here is not Nick and Nicky (in fact, Gormican wisely holds back on the showy inner dialogues), but Cage and Pascal, as two guys from very different worlds who form an improbable bond amid high-stakes circumstances. While Cage leans into his amplified, unfiltered persona (“I should always trust my shamanistic instincts as a thespian!”), Pascal nimbly balances an appealing, starry-eyed guilelessness with underlying shades of threat. They gel well, and the film is stronger when they share the frame than when it’s dabbling in Clouseau-esque slapstick (Cage’s first foray into spycraft) or letting the bullets fly and the cars crash.

The supporting characters are a little thinly drawn, with Sharon Horgan eye-rolling for Ireland as Nick’s ex-wife and Tiffany Haddish exasperatedly instructing Cage via an earpiece. And although the story’s ‘neglected family’ thread skirts mawkishness — yes, there’s a hard-to-relate-to teenage daughter (Lily Mo Sheen) — it does land somewhere more feel-good than feel-annoyed, thanks in no small part to Gormican’s evident affection for Paddington 2 (don’t ask, just watch).

It’s an occasionally patchy affair, then — but given Cage’s own résumé, that seems oddly appropriate. And, as we said, if you’re familiar with that résumé, there’s plenty here to make you go, “Whoooah!”

A big, silly, scrappy bundle of fun, packed with Cage-related Easter eggs and in-jokes, but also a whole lotta heart.
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