TL;DR – A bombastic blast of a film that holds its meta-commentary together by the skin of its teeth as it explodes across the screen
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Review –
Some actors can pique your interest by their very presence, and I think Nicolas Cage is high on that list for many people. You can just call your film Pig, and people will go see it out of sheer interest [also, you should go watch Pig]. Today, we look at a film that does not just lean into that phenomenon but makes it the central premise of its narrative.
So to set the scene, Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Cage) is at a precarious point in his professional and family life. He is dead broke, his marriage has fallen apart with Olivia Henson (Sharon Horgan), and therapy is not helping his estrangement from his daughter Addy (Lily Sheen). At his lowest point, he is given a lifeline from his agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris). A wealthy Spanish benefactor, Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), is willing to pay a million dollars. All Nic has to do is show up at his party, and surely nothing else will go wrong on the Islands of Mallorca.
The first thing you see with this film is just how committed all the cast are to the bit. To begin with, Nick Cage is playing a fictional version of himself and the personification of a younger version of himself. It would have been so easy for this to have been a vanity project for the actor, and to be fair, there is a little bit of that in here. But more than that, this is a raw exploration of the intersection of myth and reality, and it can be pretty brutal at times. The only way this would have worked is if Nick is both in on the joke and also able to explore his own legacy in cinema. I am not sure there would be many actors prepared to be this self-reflective as publicly as it is here, and you have to respect that commitment because Nick does not shy away from any part of this film.
But this is not just a Nick Cage show because the entire supporting case is here to make the film shine. It should come as no surprise that Pedro Pascal is a sheer delight as the charismatic head of an illegal global arms cartel but also a super Nick Cage fan. Much of the film is just a buddy duo act between the two, and their chemistry is phenomenal. Sharon Horgan fits well as the voice of reason that Nick needs to listen to. She is also funny in every moment on screen, as are Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, who play CIA agents that get caught up in the mix. Seriously this is a cast that commits, and I think this film would not be as funny as it is if they hadn’t.
This is a film working on many different levels from a narrative perspective. The first is a relatively simple exploration of a man that gets in too deep with an admirer that could have some dark secrets. If nothing else, the film would still be enjoyable because they nail this part of the narrative. However, it is also a film that critiques Nick Cage’s film career and his position in the world. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a film that does a deep dive into his filmography, looking under even the most obscure stone. If you think they won’t bring up Croods 2, then can I tell you, you would be mistaken [also, watch Croods 2]. Then the film descends into a meta-commentary about the entire film industry. This should turn the movie into a mess but much like last week’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, each layer supports each other to make a stronger whole.
However, I should say that while I have been quite glowing with my praise of this film, there are a couple of caveats. The first is that the more you know about Nick Cage’s filmography, the more enjoyment you would get out of the film. There are a lot of discussions that go on that you will need a least some of the context of his work and career to follow. Even if this is a passing knowledge of what happens in films like The Rock or Face/Off. Also, while I sincerely enjoyed the meta-commentary, your mileage might vary. However, if this film has one weakness, the CIA subplot feels like it could have done with more development.
In the end, do we recommend The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent? Absolutely. While I don’t know if this film will jell with everyone. If it jells with you, let’s just say that you will be in for a ride from start to finish. If you liked The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, I would recommend to you Paddington 2.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Directed by – Tom Gormican
Written by – Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten
Music by – Mark Isham
Cinematography by – Nigel Bluck
Edited by – Melissa Bretherton
Production/Distribution Companies – Saturn Films, Burr! Productions, Lionsgate & StudioCanal
Starring – Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Kim Coppola, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Sheen, Paco León, David Gordon Green, Anna MacDonald & Demi Moore
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R