The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, 2022.
Directed by Tom Gormican.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Ike Barinholtz, Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish, Lily Mo Sheen, Sharon Horgan, Jacob Scipio, Paco León, Joanna Bobin, Alessandra Mastronardi, Nicholas Wittman, Demi Moore. Mario Perez, and David Gordon Green.
Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, Nick Cage must accept a $1 million offer to attend the birthday of a dangerous superfan. Things take a wildly unexpected turn when Cage is recruited by a CIA operative and forced to live up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones.
There is a version of Nicolas Cage for everyone in co-writer and director Tom Gormican’s (scribing alongside Kevin Etten) outrageously heartfelt The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The (inter)nationally treasured thunderbolt of charisma stars as a somewhat modified variation of his true self, struggling to come by blockbuster roles and with mounting financial debts to pay.
Here, the character is credited as Nick Cage and also wholly self-absorbed with keeping his career afloat to a degree where every interaction with his wife Olivia and freshly turned 16-year-old daughter Addy (played by Sharon Horgan and Lily Sheen, respectively) is centered on his glory days or longshot hopes of earning a big part and potentially making a grand Hollywood return (not that he went anywhere, as an excessively over-the-top de-aged, prime Nicolas Cage frequently reasserts to his midlife crisis self in some nutty hallucination sequences that continue to make good on cramming in every mode of the actor one could ask for).
Among the many laughs within this family dynamic is examining fractured generational bonds, one of the greatest ongoing trends in cinema simply because it doesn’t boil down to unrealistic, forced, and misguided “family above everyone else” bullshit. Nick Cage certainly tries as a father (at one point, Addy actually explains the saddest part regarding his failures is that he is always trying to have a meaningful connection with her) but falls into the pit of laying interests on too thick rather than as pressure-free suggestions not intended to mold her into a preferred image. It also allows Nicolas Cage, as an actor, to play into that spoiled A-lister archetype, always craving to be the center of attention with self-deprecating gusto that adds a welcome dose of grounded zaniness to celebrity lifestyle depiction.
Shattered by yet another rejection, Nick Cage reluctantly accepts an offer to entertain billionaire Javi Gutierrez (a terrific Pedro Pascal balancing humor and heart, similar to the movie itself) in Spain at a birthday party. Javi is a Nicolas Cage super fan who has also written a script he desperately wants his hero to star in. Admittedly, it does feel like there is a bit of a lost opportunity to touch on how damaging parasocial relationships can be and the entitlement certain sectors of fandom can feel and toxically wield whenever not getting their way. To be fair, that’s also not the kind of movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is aspiring to be, but there are kernels of that in Javi’s personality, so it does end up feeling like a road not fully explored.
The script has other plans for Javi’s character, as Nick Cage unknowingly crosses paths with two government agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, both undeniably amusing screen presences, although it feels as if they had more to do in an earlier cut that exists somewhere, presumably chopped down to keep the proceedings under two hours and prioritized on the core elements) declaring that Javi is a dangerous cartel runner and has kidnapped a politician’s daughter to influence an upcoming election in favor of a leader that won’t come down on his criminal activities. Subsequently, Nick Cage is essentially guilt-tripped into taking on an undercover espionage assignment (” what if that was your daughter that was kidnapped”) that sees The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent settle into a hangout buddy-paranoia comedy vibe and discussion on what type of movie they should write together, which turns into a tool used to ascertain information while viewers are somewhat pummeled over the head with an explanation of all the story subtext that shouldn’t be that hard for your average viewer to piece together in the first place.
There are small narrative shortcomings here and there, even if the ultimate message of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is still finally executed and smoothly paced from a refreshing angle, and the action is competently crafted (also with some too-good ridiculous usage of practical makeup effects for a reason I won’t spoil). It’s easy to imagine Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten, and Nicolas Cage having many of the same conversations as the characters do when it comes to conceiving this loving tribute to the Hollywood star that is just as much a freakout as some of his most batshit wild roles. Yes, there are many references to Nicolas Cage’s long-standing career (and even clips from earlier films), but the filmmakers avoid making that icon service the core identity of the movie. Bromance and father-daughter connections take center stage, with Nicolas Cage tapping into a plethora of livewire personas (ranging from a family man to a lunatic to a government agent to an action hero to flexing dramatic chops and more), sometimes simultaneously. Consider it Every Nicolas Cage Everywhere All at Once.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com