Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal star in hilariously meta comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
I am a card-carrying member of the cult of Nicolas Cage. From his Oscar worthy roles and work with iconic directors, through his hit and miss action films, right down to his ridiculous genre movies and meme worthy moments, I love it all. So, when I heard that writer/director Tom Gormicon was making an action comedy where Cage plays himself, I was immediately intrigued.
In The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Nicolas Cage plays Nick Cage, a slightly caricatured but mostly impressively honest version of himself, who is struggling to get roles after being a big star in the 80s and 90s. With his finances and family falling apart he accepts a deal proposed by his agent; make a paid guest appearance at the birthday party of his billionaire superfan Javi, played by Pedro Pascal. Nick agrees to it in exchange for one million dollars and dramatically claims he is quitting acting as soon as he gets back.
After jetting off to a paradise like island resort for the party, Nick is approached by two CIA agents who tell him that Javi is a globally wanted arms dealer and they want him to turn informant and gather intelligence for the government. Before long, the faded action star finds himself having to play a real spy, despite his genuine growing friendship with the villainous superfan he’s come to stalk. Cage and Pascal are ably supported by the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz and Sharon Horgan with a couple of A list cameos thrown in to boot.
It’s a wonderfully bonkers plot that also includes Cage playing a younger version of himself who he frequently has conversations with (honestly, I wish I could have heard the pitch meeting for this film.) But there’s plenty to like here even if you’re not a Cage superfan.
It feels like a film by movie nerds for movie nerds, with endless references to not just Cage’s previous films but classic directors, acting styles and meta moments lovingly riffing on the industry in general – whilst it’s nowhere near as slapstick funny, Massive Talent at times reminded me of Robert Downey Jr’s incredible Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder. Add in a fantastic scene about Paddington 2 and this is really a case of the greats recognising the greats. Cage’s genuine love of the art of cinema bleeds through what should be, on the face of it, a ridiculous movie.
And if you are a Cage superfan? The references. Oh, the references. Pascal’s character Javi makes continual references to Cage’s previous famous films and a great number of very recognisable props don’t just make an appearance but are central to the plot. Whilst Cage is wonderfully self-aware that not all of his films have necessarily been top tier, Massive Talent never feels like it’s mocking him or the audience who love those films, but rather celebrating that inexplicable magnetism that draws fans to one of the hardest working men in Hollywood.
In a similar vein, check out this recent viral interview for a surprisingly wholesome insight into how Cage views his own work and his fans: Nicolas Cage AMA
Cage and Pascal have an effortless onscreen chemistry and a hilarious dynamic. A scene where the pair take acid together is probably the highlight of the film and had audiences in my screening roaring with laughter. The two manage to create a very sweet friendship that’ll have you rooting for them to figure out this whole wanted criminal snafu so they can stay together and be buds. Whilst Pascal is wonderful, I did read one interview that said originally Cage suggested he play the superfan himself and they get someone else to play Nick just to make it more bizarre, and well, I would have watched the hell out of that.
Funny, fresh and nostalgic, Massive Talent does an excellent job of showcasing the skills of its much-loved star whilst acknowledging the inherent comedy of the bizarre situation he has found himself in within pop culture. The thing I have always loved about Cage is how he fully commits himself to whatever role he is playing with balls to the wall intensity no matter the quality or budget of the project; he has never turned in a lacklustre performance. So, I’m sure that audiences will be thrilled that that unique intensity is this time attached to a film as good and as weird as Massive Talent. Nicolas Cage; he’s back! Not that he ever went anywhere.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is out in UK cinemas on 18th April 2022