The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Image courtesy Lionsgate, photo credit Katalin Vermes


M, 107 minutes

4 Stars

Review by © Jane Freebury

Nic Cage playing Nick Cage in this toey new Hollywood number plays along with the persona that goes with the actor’s name. The actor’s angry, brooding screen presence and the excesses of the Hollywood action genre that go with it, are great material for a jaunty takedown like this of an actor that many love to hate.

After all, this is someone who says he feels an affinity for German Expressionism, a method actor who lays it on thick, and ever since a notorious interview with Terry Wogan when he was 26, has ignited controversy.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a funny, clever diversion from the evening news, a film within a film about a Hollywood star in late mid-life crisis who, the moment he quits, gets roped back into acting by fandom and organized crime. More comedy than action, it is the work of writer-director Tom Gormicon who collaborated on the screenplay with Kevin Etten. It’s not unsurprising to hear that Cage turned the lead role down a number of times before he agreed to climb on board.

As Nick Cage, Cage plays an actor whose career has been at a low ebb for some time. There are debts to pay off and, most critical of all, he has just made a mug of himself at the 16th birthday party of his daughter, Addie (Lily Mo Sheen). An appearance at a billionaire’s birthday bash for a fee of $1 million is a welcome diversion and easy for Nick to accept.

Scenes of ‘Cage rage’ and many references to defining moments of his career, that anyone watching a Nic Cage film has to be up for, won’t disappoint

He’s keen to clear out for a while. Chill, then quit the trade once and for all, even though it’s been a privilege to have had a role in the myth-making industry. Cue eye-roll from ex-wife, Olivia (Sharon Horgan).

He is transported to the spectacular coastal mansion of his host, an uber rich fan of his films with obsessive knowledge of the production details, and aspiring screenwriter who just happens to have a copy of a screenplay he has drafted on the home screen of his smartphone. It is, however, awkward that along the way Nick has been recruited by CIA agents to inform on his convivial host. Javi Guttierrez (Pedro Pascal) is suspected of having something to do with the recent kidnapping of the daughter of a politician.

Chilean-American actor, Pascal, doesn’t sit so easily in the role, but the buddy action sequences that follow when Nick and Javi join forces against the real villains of the piece are a lot of fun. Action scenes that put Cage’s action skills to the test don’t disappoint either. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is anything but the character-driven formula about real people that it pokes fun at, but there are a few moments of family life and friendship that actually ground the movie.

The scenes of ‘Cage rage’ and many references to defining moments of Cage’s career, that anyone watching a Nic Cage film has to be up for, won’t disappoint either. Some of these involve encounters with Nick’s younger self, a cheesy, smooth-skinned version of Nick who appears from time to time, to pronounce his views on the career direction that his alter ego should take.

Even if his acting isn’t much better , this witty, funny action comedy makes the most of an actor who shows that over the career highs and lows he’s become a pretty good sport

There are some 110 or so titles in Cage’s acting filmography including work directed by Hollywood royalty, Francis Ford Coppola (Rumble Fish), Martin Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead), David Lynch (Wild at Heart), and the Coen brothers (Raising Arizona), and Spike Jonze (Adaptation.). Leaving Los Vegas earned Cage an Oscar, but it is hard overall to forget all the dross. Like the risible Face/Off and Gone in 60 Seconds and the strange, awkward romantic turn opposite Penelope Cruz in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

Back in the day, in the 1980s-90s, when Cage was an aspiring talent, Philip Kaufman’s lovely movie with the ponderous title, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, was a darling of the arthouse circuit. No doubt, this outing is an up-yours and a good riddance to all that.

Perhaps it is time for another comeback, now that a new generation of movie fans and critics have found that they can love him after all. Cage may be banking on a bit of that, but he has at least shown he has become, over the career highs and lows, a pretty good sport.

First published in the Canberra Times on 22 April 2022. Jane’s reviews are also published in Rotten Tomatoes