The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)
The most Nicolas Cage movie ever.
Short on both cash and acting opportunities, Hollywood star Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Cage) reluctantly takes on a personal appearance at the birthday party of billionaire Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), Javi being a massive fan of the eccentric actor and the $1 million fee being just the cash injection Cage needs. Things take a turn for the unusual when Cage is approached by two CIA agents, Vivan and Martin (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, respectively), who tell him a) Javi is an international arms dealer, b) he’s behind the kidnapping of a politician’s daughter, and c) your country needs you, Sailor. Can self-absorbed, flighty Nic Cage step up to the plate?
Well, kind of — he’s certainly willing — but that’s not really the point. Directed and co-written (with Kevin Etten) by Tom Gormican, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is basically a hang-out movie. The plot doesn’t really matter (and in fact, the more I think about it, the whole CIA thing could have been jettisoned for the betterment of the film — sorry, Tiff and Ike) when the real joy is just watching Cage and Pascal bounce off one another in fun and weird ways.
Really, this is a buddy comedy — Cage is playing a heightened, fictionalized version of himself, and he is absolutely up to the task, while Pascal, initially somewhat enigmatic and threatening, is revealed to be a total goofball who really is a massive Nic Cage fan: he has memorabilia up the wazoo, complete with a 1:1 wax model of Cage as Face/Off’s Castor Troy clasping his gold-plated twin handguns. The plot tension rests on whether Javi is really an uncommonly charming Bond villain and, even if he is, can Cage bring himself to narc on his new BFF, whose boundless enthusiasm has rekindled his love of acting?
That’s more or less your lot, but it’s a pretty fun lot. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is an exercise in metatextuality and postmodernism, but it never reaches the heady heights (or plumbs the self-indulgent depths — YMMV) of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich (1999) or 2002’s Adaptation (the latter being a Cage twofer, you’ll recall). We’re not here to plumb the depths of Cage’s neuroses or interrogate the relationship between image and reality or any of that stuff. We are here to celebrate Nic Cage, though, in all his manic glory.
To that end, we get plenty of nods to and easter eggs from Cage’s body of work, and the man himself gets to cut loose with all his tics and shrieks and affectations on the reg, and he even appears as an imaginary version of himself circa David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), acting as a devil on the “real” Cage’s shoulder (angel missing, presumed dead). If you’re a fan — and I think we’re all Cage fans now, right? We should come up with a catchy name — you’re going to enjoy this.
But it’s not all goofy gags and brohomie between Nic and Javi — there is an emotional throughline here, and it involves Cage learning to both step out of the spotlight once in a while and be present for his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and daughter Addy (Lily Sheen). Doing that when he’s on a private island that is a literal shrine to him is a big ask for an ego as … developed … as the fictionalized Nic, and the fact that the film manages to follow through on this in a sincere and impactful way is impressive.
All up, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a delight. Perhaps the opportunity to go deeper and weirder was missed, but I don’t sense that was a design goal in the first place. This is a warm and welcoming film that manages to lampoon and celebrate its central figure in equal measure, and you can only really do that with something or someone you love. This flick clearly loves Nicolas Cage, and if you do too, get onto it.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Travis Johnson