Writer-director Tom Gormican’s The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, co-written with Kevin Etten, sees Nicolas Cage play a fictional version of himself. Nick Cage (Cage) feels defeated, having seen roles dry up and money issues mounting. His family life is not much better as Nick cannot relate to his daughter Addy (Lily Sheen), while his ex-wife, Olivia (Sharon Horgan), wishes he’d get his crap together. So, Nick tells his agent, Richard (Neil Patrick Harris), that he wants to retire. But, to help pay outstanding debts, the Hollywood legend agrees to take one last gig.
Said job takes Nick to Spain for the birthday party of millionaire Javi (Pedro Pascal), a Cage superfan. At first, Nick is only there for the money, but Javi breaks down his walls, and the two get on very well. So much so that they decide to collaborate on a film. However, a bump in the road is hit when C.I.A. agents Vivan (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) tell Nick that Javi is a dangerous cartel leader who kidnapped a world leader’s daughter. Now, the government officials induct Nick Cage into their spy games to bring him down. But can Nick take down his only true friend?
The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, by its very nature, might be meta-focused on Nicolas Cage. But, by writing a solid story with surprising twists and engaging characters, Gormican and Etten deliver something for everyone. The relationship between Nick and Javi works as soon as the two are properly introduced. It’s immediately clear what they offer each other and why their bond is so strong so quickly.
“…government officials induct Nick Cage into their spy games…”
Hearing Javi describe how Guarding Tess helped his dying father and him get closer is funny and heartbreaking. It also perfectly illustrates the themes at work. This fictionalized Nicolas Cage has lost sight of how his movies inspire or help people. He feels like a walking meme, but through Javi, he understands that his work still resonates and means something to so many. The writers tap into the universal feeling of not knowing that your work matters authentically and emotionally.
That isn’t to imply that this is some dramatic slog examining a broken psyche in intimate detail. Yes, Nick’s arc is about rediscovering himself and his love of the craft he’s been doing for four decades. And the screenplay takes its time firmly establishing and earning those emotional beats. But, it’s also a meta-look at the creation of The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent and the icon that is Cage in real life. To that end, the flick is hilarious. Many of the jokes come from the characters, such as an oddly sweet moment involving the trading of shoes. To say more much would ruin much of the fun, but the humor is fast-paced and always lands. My personal favorite involves SAG-AFTRA. And don’t worry, your favorite Nicolas Cage film gets referenced or a shout-out at one point or another.
But, The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent is a vehicle for Cage and Pascal to play off each other and show their range. Cage has never played it safe as an actor, often taking on offbeat or unexpected roles or performing the parts uniquely. That energy is one of the reasons he’s remained so beloved. Gormican allows him to run the whole gamut, from subtle and sullen to manic and badass. Cage masterfully anchors the movie, allowing even the more absurd elements to remain grounded.
"…original, funny, dramatic, and action-packed..."