In The unbearable weight of massive talent, Nicolas Cage embodies Nicolas Cage, prolific actor, Hollywood star and internet icon. If that concept alone is putting you in stitches, you might be the right audience for this comedy trifle meta.
It’s the kind of movie that treats the mere mention of other movies (like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Keep Tess) as a punch line, and which considers the characters repeatedly calling Nicolas Cage “Nic Cage” on his face as the height of hilarity. At one point, the star stumbles upon a shrine of his own production, a long wall of beautifully displayed props and merchandise in his likeness, and ends up gawking at an unconvincing life-size replica of himself, brandishing the golden pistols of Front/Off. That’s the whole movie in a nutshell: a shrine to the cult of Cage, a movie memorabilia room.
Long to come
Cage has been working for a role like this for quite some time. The unbearable weight of massive talent feels like the logical end point of a fork in his twisted career path, one that has bent into a cult-renowned ouroboros, allowing him to capitalize on how fans and detractors caricature his talents as a man wild. Recent movies like Willy’s Wonderland and Ghost Country Prisoners putting those talents to little use, instead asking him to show up, stand up, and be Nicolas Cage — they essentially turn him into a prop. Here the sales pitch is more direct: you pay for Nic Cage and Nic Cage is exactly what you get, without the distraction of a fictional character.
Director and co-writer Tom Gormican (This awesome moment) basically built Cage his own JCVD, Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 2008 vehicle that projected the Muscles of Brussels as a washed-out version of itself. As in this sardonic action-comedy, an actor with plenty of badass on his resume is forced to channel a story of fake, real-life violence when he’s put in harm’s way…but not before he’s suffered indignities. careers and struggling with his failures as a divorced father. (While the real Cage has two kids and is in his fifth marriage, it’s been fictionalized here in a simpler sitcom arrangement, with Disasterby Sharon Horgan as his supportive but no-frills ex-wife and Lily Mo Sheen as his exasperated teenage daughter.)
Disheartened by a party he didn’t land and eager to pay off huge debts (a nod to the star’s high-profile tax troubles), Cage agrees to attend a eccentric billionaire weekend on a remote Spanish island for $1 million. . Its host turns out to be an effusive superfan played, with flattering twinkle, by Pedro Pascal. There’s comedic potential in an actor of Cage’s stature and popularity forced to please a die-hard fan with expectations of how his idol should perform off-screen. But Unbearable weight mostly sees an opportunity for kinship between the two, fulfilling a Comic-Con fantasy of meeting your famous Hollywood hero and finding out that he’s actually just a very generous, thoughtful, down-to-earth guy interested in reading your scenario.
Gormican loosely flirts with house of mirrors laughs from another Cage project, Adaptation, when the two instant besties begin to think about a project, a project that takes on the mutant form of their own circumstances and their creative partnership. (“It’s a smart adult movie,” they keep repeating, as the Donald Kaufman-worthy hijinks bursting around them deliberately beg to differ.) But the movie is closer in spirit to the movie. one of Seth Rogen’s mildly satirical shoots. ’em-up bromances, with a cameo from Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green – who got Cage one of his best late-period performances in Jo- and a plot that superficially recalls The interview. It turns out the CIA has identified Pascal’s good natured Javi as a ruthless international drug lord, which forces Cage to engage in painfully unfunny undercover spy games as agents played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz bark orders at him through a headset.
Cage, as usual, understands the mission. In this case, it essentially amounts to putting in quotation marks the characteristics of his “new shamanic” acting style. In its own way, it’s a layered performance, with the star playing himself as a relaxed eccentric who sometimes has to respond to the demands of the situation with characteristic bellows, sobs and hip thrusts. The film saves its most over-the-top line-readings for sporadic conversations with an imaginary doppelganger – a digitally-enhanced stage partner whose Elvisian rumble makes Cage seem to usurp the stereotype of a quintessentially quotable Cage trick. Yet Gormican does nothing with this dual-personality device; it’s a disposable gag.
A love letter to himself
We’re supposed to marvel at what a good player Cage is here, enduring cracks about how he was a bigger star and how he could sometimes say no to a draft. But these jokes are really compliments in disguise, similar to the softballs they throw in job interviews when they ask you to identify your biggest weaknesses. The portrait of Cage that emerges is that of a dedicated but always humble artist, a celebrity always polite to his fans, and a workaholic who makes a lot of films not for the money, but because, damn it, he just likes to play! Even the criticisms of his fictional paternity are flattering: he annoys his daughter by… being an avid cinephile who encourages her to watch silent films! Ironic as the title might sound, it accurately captures the flattering tone of this jokey self-portrait — the sentiment that Cage is actually playing in a love letter to himself.
Maybe he deserves one. Contrary to the guy’s perception as a lazy cashier, he Is tend to bring emotional intensity to his work, even when that work is far below him. The is something to say about doing a lot of movies, not overthinking what each one will mean in the larger context of your career. And Cage can are still delivering a remarkable performance, as he did last summer as the painful culinary luminary of Pork, a far more insightful film about artistry, dedication and fame. Cage is acutely aware of how his choices — the projects he’s chosen over the years, the volatility he’s brought to them — have left the court of public opinion divided over his worth, with supporters at both “genius” and “incorrigible ham”. fields. So why not dine on both perceptions with an irreverent wink?
The problem with The unbearable weight of massive talent isn’t the movie a selfish victory lap. It’s that Cage deserves a better tribute to his showbiz legacy than one that largely consists of star-studded onlookers shouting, “The guy is a fucking legend!” What we have here is more of a meme than a movie. And as an action-comedy without a single memorable setting, it only manages to uphold the relatively silly fun of the actor’s many direct-to-video potholes, who delivered the goods without as much of a smirk. As his highness chokes on a projection of Paddington 2 (a shameless appeal to the Twitter hordes), this particular Nicolas Cage fan found himself daydreaming about a Nicolas Cage movie that genuinely uses his gifts rather than adoring them in a broad, dumb way.
The unbearable weight of massive talent hits theaters April 22. For more reviews and writings by AA Dowd, visit his Authory page.