THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT: 3 ½ STARS. “wild at heart.”
There is perfect casting and then there is Nicolas Cage, playing a heightened version of himself in “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” a meta new action comedy now playing in theatres.
Off screen Cage is a larger-than-life character, an Oscar winner known for his penchant for purchasing dinosaur skulls, tax troubles and wildly uneven cinematic output. He brings the weight of that public persona to this movie, making myth out of his own legend of self-indulgence.
Cage plays Cage as a faded Hollywood prince. Once a box office draw, he’s down on his luck, going broke and in need of a big money gig. He has become the White Claw of serious actors. He’s good, but no one with taste is taking him seriously.
Producers, scared off by his wild-at-heart reputation, give him the Hollywood kiss off. We love you, but are going in a different direction.
Depressed, he decides to leave Hollywood. “I’m done,” he says. “I’m quitting acting. Tell the trades it was a tremendous honour to be part of storytelling and myth-making.”
Before he leaves the life, he gets an offer he can’t refuse. Olive magnate Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) will pay Cage a million dollars to attend his birthday bash in Mallorca. The actor reluctantly agrees, and soon finds himself drinking and cliff-diving at Javi’s beautiful estate.
Javi is a huge fan, with a collection of cage collectibles. “Is this supposed to be me?” cage asks, gesturing at a statue of himself. “It’s grotesque. I’ll give you twenty thousand for it.”
Turns out the starstruck Javi isn’t what he appears. “Do you know who you’re spending time with?” CIA agent Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) asks Cage. “He’s one of the most ruthless men on the face of the earth.” They think Javi kidnapped the daughter of the president of Catalonia to influence an upcoming election.
Vivian and Agent Martin (Ike Barinholtz) recruit Cage to work undercover on Javi’s estate to get to the bottom of the case. “That little girl doesn’t have anyone,” says Vivian, “and if you leave, I don’t know what will happen to her.”
It’s a chance to do some good, but for Cage, it is also the role of a lifetime.
“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is an entertaining, oddball movie. Essentially a one joke premise—i.e.: Cage as Cage—it plays with the tropes of many of Cage’s films, but doesn’t play as strictly homage or satire. It’s something else. What, exactly, I’m not quite sure.
It’s almost as if this is Nic Cage’s screw you to the folks who deride him for being a working actor who pumps out two or three movies a year. “I’ve always seen this as a job, as work,” he says, as though he feels bogged down by the weight of the critical appraisal of his artistic choices.
But this isn’t a movie about score settling. It’s a silly action comedy, unabashedly interested in entertaining the audience. It occasionally errs, mistaking familiar references from Cage’s filmography for jokes. It’s that “meme-ification”—the pinpointing of Cage call-backs—of the film’s humour that prevents it from becoming a knee slapper all the way through. There are laugh out loud moments, but there are more moments that feel more Instagram ready than cinematic.
Still, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a good time, worth the price of admission to see young Cage advising older Cage and commit the most surreal example of actorly self-love ever seen on film.