At the Movies with Alan Gekko: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Action-Comedy/Stars: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Sheen, Paco León, David Gordon Green, Demi Moore, Anna MacDonald/Runtime: 107 minutes

I think it’s safe to say that the majority of actors have two distinct sides to them: the side we see when cameras are rolling or “reel life”, and the side we see when the cameras aren’t rolling or “real life” if you will. No more and no less. Then there is that rare actor like Nicolas Cage who, besides possessing both of those elements, is in possession of a third side. That being as no more and no less than a living, breathing human meme due to the absolute wave of delightfully over-the-top performances that he has contributed to the world of cinema. Indeed of the entire rogues gallery of performers who have been willing to take part in so-called “paycheck cinema”, I think you could make the argument that Nic Cage has been one of the chief titans in that particular arena for awhile now. A title that also incidentally says something about the man in that here is an Academy Award-winning talent who is actually willing to make a slice of cinema like 2008’s Bangkok Dangerous, 2014’s Left Behind, or 2016’s USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage and no I’m not just talking about for financial reasons. Rather, it’s because you can see that Cage is hooked in some unique way on taking part in cinema that allows him to just throw caution to the wind and cut loose. As a result, we see that even if the film in question is an unmitigated disaster the man’s desire to actually act to say nothing of his wonderfully vast knowledge of cinema have managed to make him both a kind of delightful oddity in the world of film as well as a genuine treat to watch whenever he pops up in something no matter the quality of the final product. With that in mind, if there was ever a part that this icon was literally born to play….it would be himself. So of course, you should completely forgive how typecast it might initially appear to be to cast Nicolas Cage as a unusually over the top middle-aged actor by the name of…..*wait for it* Nicolas Cage. Yet that’s exactly what we get in the new slice of cinema, and movie I am reviewing today, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. Indeed here is a gloriously zany fourth-wall obliterating goofy little piece of cinema that’s core meta narrative hook proves to be a cinematic veil for a action-comedy that is wonderfully ordinary and agreeable in equal measure. Yet even in the face of that, this slice of cinema is still an exuberant and delightful time of both gently having some fun at its lead actor’s expense whilst also operating as a true ode to everything about the man and thus turning this slice of cinema into one that may be cheesy at times, but is also something genuinely special to behold as well.

The plot is as follows: so our movie gets underway as we are treated to a remarkably lifelike albeit fictional portrayal of Nic Cage, complete with facial hair that seems to personify mid-life and bourbon-drenched depression mode, who is very much a Hollywood actor who is longer the first or even the fifth person that is called when a good role is up for grabs. Of course this portrayal is a complete fictional fabrication, but seeing as how that is the public and media view the man it does seem wonderfully authentic. As a result, we get a Nic Cage who meets with a highly regarded director for a role in an upcoming film and lets his drive to get the part get so out of control that he reads for the part, terrible Boston accent included, right there in the parking lot whilst also failing to comprehend why his daughter (who he has a crummy relationship with due to being a workaholic) really doesn’t want to spend any time with him. We also see that this version of Cage is infamous in regards to his finances to the extent that when his delightfully smug agent nets him an offer for a cool mil just to be present at some billionaire’s birthday party he agrees. Not just because after all he owes the hotel he has been staying in post yet another divorce at least 600k, but because maybe he’s aware he needs some kind of comeback on a professional level. However, upon his exhausted arrival to his host’s luxurious estate in Mallorca, we see he is quickly surprised yet also pleased to learn that his host, a seemingly decent guy by the name of Javi, is actually a HUGE fan of our hero. Yes he may unsurprisingly have a script that he would like Cage to look at, but he is also just content to pal around with his favorite celebrity of all time. It isn’t long however before the bonding between the two bros soon comes to a screeching halt courtesy of a pair of CIA operatives by the names of Vivian and Martin respectively who have a little scheme of their own whipped up. Namely that they would like our intrepid hero to assist them in saving the daughter of a Catalan candidate for the presidency who they have reason to believe that Javi, a guy they argue is actually a despicable international weapons supplier, has kidnapped and is holding somewhere on his estate. Of course, it should not be that much of a surprise to learn that Martin and Vivian turn out to be not the most capable at operating a sting assignment so we quickly see things go awry with our poor hero caught smug in the middle and thus left to find a way out of this mess in as close to one piece as possible….

Now when looking at this just from an idea perspective, I can honestly say that this is easily a dream come true for fans of this film’s iconic lead actor be they casual or diehard. That’s because not only is it Nic freakin’ Cage fully accepting with open arms the belief of what kind of actor let alone human being he is perceived to be, but because he then in his own unique style manages to take those perceptions and dial them up to a 11. With that being said however, I also can tell you it is by no means difficult to picture a take of this film that is a colossal train wreck and manages to decimate Cage’s chances of finding work once and for all. I mean it’s not like there has never been an instance of an actor playing a highly-exaggerated version of themselves only to have the joke they’re regaling the audience completely overwhelm their performance. That and honestly a fair amount of why Nic Cage is such a fun guy is because he always kept how the world sees him at a respectable enough distance when he is picking roles to play instead of purposefully making choices that he know will get his fans riled up. Thus if this slice of cinema turned out to be no more than Cage just acting out all the things that people have said about him and his filmography for years then the end result really would have been quite, for lack of a better word, unbearable. Happily, I am here to tell you that this film is not that…..well at least for the most part. To be sure, it does have moments of going after the low-hanging fruit of such films as Face/Off and the 2006 Wicker Man to say nothing of one of the most sincere throwbacks to, of all things, Guarding Tess ever spoken in a movie. At the same time, those throwbacks are by no means the majority of this film’s content. Rather, this film’s creative team makes the ingenious choice to put the bulk of this film’s weight on Cage and Pascal which proves to be a true stroke of genius. Indeed this is one pairing that makes for a fanfreakingtastic dynamic duo as Cage is slowly won over by Javi’s immense fan worship whilst Javi is just content that he gets to spend time with his absolute favorite actor in the whole wide world while also slowly becoming genuine friends with the man. It is with that in mind that I should take a moment to praise just how terrific of a job Pedro Pascal does in this movie. Indeed not only is he absolutely hilarious and actually a fairly heartwarming guy, but Pascal also does a great job at giving the character just enough fanaticism without sending him into stalker or obsessed fan territory a’la Robert DeNiro or Michael Biehn in the 1996 or 1981 movie The Fan. Suffice it to say as the bond between the two men grows, you really begin to comprehend just why our main character would warm up to Javi to say nothing of find himself absolutely guilt-stricken when asked to see if Javi is really on the up and up as he claims. Suffice it to say that this film is most assuredly at its finest when it it places its focus on these 2 bros and their growing bond which even winds up including, in one crazy great sequence, taking acid together and then proceeding to reenacting their wildest action cinema fantasies with one another.

Suffice it to say that if there is any aspect to this film that doesn’t operate on the level of everything else, it would be in regards to the groups that operate on the edge of the core bond. Yes both Sharon Horgan and Lily Sheen do actually give fairly good performances as fictional Cage’s alienated ex-wife and daughter. With that said though, the pair sadly are not given that much to do past responding to the various shenanigans our main character finds himself becoming embroiled in. Along with that, I guess you should know now that the whole CIA subplot in this never really gains a lot in the way of momentum either. Instead, it really does seems like it is a part of this film more so to operate as a catalyst for our hero to become embroiled in some truly ridiculous circumstances. When looking at it through that angle, the subplot does work fairly well with particular regard to when Cage stumbles and bumbles through some quite anxiety-inducing stabs at espionage with a sequence set at Javi’s birthday bash being a film standout. Ultimately though, it is fairly tragic that you have two genuinely funny performers consisting of Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz as the CIA agents handling Cage since they are given nowhere near enough to work with as they should. I mean yes I would assume that the reason you would bring these two actors into a film like this is to genuinely be funny (shocking I know). Yet other than an elongated rant involving The Croods 2, this duo finds their work in this tragically reduced to either shouting at Cage through an earpiece or complaining about just how much he genuinely sucks at what they have asked him to do.

Ultimately though, something tells me that you did not decide to give this slice of cinema for those components of the film though if you did then 10 points to whatever House at Hogwarts you belong to. With that in mind, I am confident that the main reason you have approached this film is because you are excited about seeing Nick Cage do what Nick Cage does best whilst actually playing Nick Cage and trust me when I say that he does not disappoint. Not in the least. I mean I know that he initially had some reservations about doing a movie like this, but believe me when I say they don’t show up at all in the finished product. Suffice it to say that Cage does a wonderful job at being willing to have some fun at his own expense from certain attire choices to even portraying a digitally younger version of himself who haunts the main character like a ghost straight out of Dickens. Not only that, but the manic energy shown by Cage in this downright phenomenal and it is that manic energy that hurtles this film into being a movie that is something truly special. I mean I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that nothing about this slice of cinema would even begin to operate as phenomenally well as it does if Cage was not onboard with being the Nic Cage that this movie perceives him to be. Having said that, immersing himself 110% in a part IS one of Cage’s defining qualities so perhaps I shouldn’t have been as concerned as I was.

All in all it should come as no surprise to learn that if you are an avid Nicolas Cage fan like myself then you most assuredly will get exactly what you want from this slice of cinema’s meta look at the man’s larger than life personality. At the same time though, it might surprise you to learn that the genuine core of this film is the delightful bromance between Cage and Pedro Pascal. Indeed yes this slice of cinema may have its fair share of flaws scattered throughout, but it is the bond between these two guys that not only make this a film that is memorable, but a complete and utter delight as well. Suffice it to say that if you get the chance you most assuredly should check this movie out. I promise you it is a wild ride most definitely worth taking. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent “2022” a solid 4 out of 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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