If there is one actor that has had his share of ups and downs in his career, it would be Nicolas Cage. From winning the Best Actor Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas and being the star of Bruckheimer action classics such as The Rock and Con Air to varied performances in various films such as Prisoners of the Ghostland as The Wicker Man remake, Cage is an unpredictable tour de force on screen. In fact, Cage’s eclectic cinematography somewhat serves as the inspiration for the latest film by That Awkward Moment director Tom Gormican.
Meta-comedyThe Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent stars Cage as Nick Cage, a fictionalised version of himself, not to mention a struggling actor and dad. His eagerness for unsuitable roles becomes overenthusiasm for ‘game-changing’ parts, but he ultimately crashes and burns in a cloud of disappointment. Meanwhile, he cannot seem to connect with teenage daughter Addy (Lily Sheen), who paints him as a narcissistic, washed-up actor who needs to be reminded about how great he is – something that is reinforced by Nicky Cage, a younger, over-confident yet imaginary version of himself.
With no source of income, he makes a million-dollar appearance at the behest of Javi (Pedro Pascal), a Spanish billionaire and a Nicolas Cage super-fan. However, Nick is soon recruited by CIA operatives Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz), who believe Javi is an international arms dealer. With the life of a kidnapped girl on the line, the agents recruit Nick to play his biggest role yet – to save the day.
The wasted ‘spy’ element comes across as an afterthought to the plot while swaying it towards the conventional, rather than retaining its satirical and more daring black comedy roots. This short and underdeveloped plotline also prevents Haddish and Barinholtz from making an impact on the plot, despite their involvement in one of the film’s more memorable scenes, when Vivian’s timely efforts spur our hero into action during a fumbled reconnaissance mission. However, this is one small flaw in a pure example of cinematic escapism.
Given the fact that Cage had refused the role several times before Gormican convinced him to take it, The Unbearable Weight of a Massive Talent is an ambitious project that brilliantly celebrates him as a bonafide actor. Juggling between a frustrated actor and a struggling dad, Cage’s multi-faceted role sees him skillfully switch between various emotions, which become increasingly complex as his bond with Javi grows in strength. While he dominates the screen, Pedro Pascal is equally brilliant as Javi, whose adorable nervousness around his idol further cement the driving force of the film: their unlikely bromance.
Reminiscent of a modern Bond film, Nigel Bluck’s beautiful cinematography captures the idyllic settings (with Croatia substituting sun-kissed Mallorca) while Gormican and co-screenwriter Etten brilliantly balance the screenplay between comedy and thriller so audiences do wonder who, between Javi and Nick, is conning whom and are subsequently kept on their toes. Despite Javi’s endless love for the actor (not to mention Nicky’s bold demeanour) feeding Nick’s narcissism, they share drug-fueled conversations and dramatic exchanges that feel like a reenactment of a Bruckheimer film – apt amid a cinematic celebration of its lead actor. The screenwriters also splurge on a multitude of references that celebrate Cage that builds the sweet and often hilarious rapport between Javi and Nick, easily making it the highlight of the film.
One of the funniest films (so far) of 2022, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a hoot from the get-go and its unrelenting comedy and charm remind audiences how cinema can be fun. As for Cage, this film proves he is an Academy Award-winning actor for a reason.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is out in UK cinemas on Friday 22 April.
Director: Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten (co-screenwriter)
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Sharon Horgan, Neil Patrick Harris
Runtime: 107 minutes