“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” (2022) – “This is a big night for me. This is the first time I’ve been on national television on a talk show in 14 years.” – Nicolas Cage on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, April 20, 2022
Nicolas Cage has 110 acting credits (according to IMDb). He has worked with the best in the business, including the Coen Brothers, David Lynch, Werner Herzog, John Woo, Spike Jonze, Ridley Scott, John Travolta, Kathleen Turner, Holly Hunter, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Penelope Cruz, Chris Cooper, Dennis Hopper, Matt Dillon, Sam Rockwell, Sean Connery, and Meryl Streep.
He won a 1996 Best Actor Oscar for playing a self-destructive alcoholic in “Leaving Las Vegas” (1995), and the Academy nominated him for his work in “Adaptation” (2002), Spike Jonze’s bizarre dramedy.
It’s been almost 20 years since Cage’s last Oscar nomination, and he won’t earn an Academy Award for his performance in “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”, but he is unquestionably welcome here in an utterly out-of-the-box role.
In director/co-writer Tom Gormican’s laugh-out-loud comedy, Nicolas plays “Nick Cage”, a version but not an exact copy of himself, where he searches for a new film gig while also living in a Los Angeles hotel and racking up a 600,000 dollar expense.
While seeking the next “Gone in 60 Seconds” (2000), “National Treasure” (2004), “Mandy” (2018), or “Pig” (2021), his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) mentions that a wealthy businessman wants Nick to attend a birthday party in Spain…for a million-dollar payday. So, he flies to the festivities to meet and celebrate with Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal).
Javi is a Nick Cage superfan!
Mr. Gutierrez not only hopes that this Hollywood star will become his BFF but that Cage will also read his script and wish to star in his film! However, if you gave Javi truth serum, he would gladly take Nick passing on his screenplay if it meant that they would become best friends. For sure, seven days a week and twice on Sundays.
This film’s basic premise: a fan meets a celebrity. Nick is a reluctant guest, while Javi bursts with cartwheel-joy that his favorite actor is lodging at his massive coastal home, a once-in-a-lifetime visit.
We have the semi-immovable object versus the not-so-irresistible force. Cage and Pascal share winning comedic chemistry (like they have been buds for years) and work their characters’ deep-seated feelings. All the moments between the actors feel effortless and work extremely well. While Javi pulls, Nick quasi-pushes away, but a million bucks is a ton of dough, and, after taxes, this hefty sum will help pay off his looming hotel bill. So, he plays along, and Nick grows fond of Javi, as this fanatic’s dreams may just come true.
The audience is thrown into the middle of this potential bromance, but also with the surreal experience of witnessing Nicolas playing Nick!
Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten are NC fans themselves, and even though the script calls for Cage to dance with self-deprecation, the picture lays a strong foundation of respect and love for Nicolas. In fact, the movie is a celebration of the man. The screenplay garners sympathy for Nick and dreams up playful banter, and we aren’t laughing at Cage’s eccentricities but with him. To Cage’s credit, he’s a committed good sport while opening up his black Ferrari passenger door and offering to take us on a 107-minute theatrical spin.
Well, Gormican took a spin at questions from FOX 7 Austin at the 2022 SXSW red carpet about his intention for the film.
“There’s a blending of reality and fiction, and we get to sort of screw with the identity of Nicolas Cage a little bit. I want you to have fun, and I want us to remember what it’s like to go to theatres and laugh together,” Gormican said.
Speaking of reality and fiction, Sharon Horgan plays Cage’s ex-wife Olivia and Lily Mo Sheen is his 16-year-old daughter Abby, but you’d swear that they are his real ex and kid. This critic HAD to double-check with IMDb to confirm that Horgan and Sheen are not related to Nick/Nicolas.
Gormican is correct that his movie is fun, especially during the first hour. Every moment with Cage and Pascal during the opening 60-plus minutes is pure gold. Their characters navigate through the initial “stranger phase” to (potential) best-buddy milestones, and Gormican and Etten pen amusing happenings and spaces for questionable judgment that allow two grown men to bond over nonsense, humility, and trust.
However, the good times may not last, as Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz play a pair of law enforcement types who try to throw cold water on Nick and Javi’s friendship. Quite frankly, Haddish and Barinholtz’s characters’ thread, which entangles Javi, is a bit silly. Unfortunately, during the movie’s second half, this particular plot point devolves into routines that one might find on any last season episode of the “The A-Team” (1983 – 1987). That’s not a compliment. Still, Pascal and the wildcard Cage confidently step into these shallow waters.
Since the movie’s overall premise continues into this curious pseudo-reality show, we’re – for the most part – thrilled to ride shotgun with our flashy protagonist. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” isn’t a heavy burden. Just the opposite. It’s a light, refreshing escape. At times, it’s a blast, but throughout the picture, it’s an absolute pleasure to “reconnect” with Cage, the man we’ve known for 40 years. Don’t forget that Pedro is his worthy co-pilot, and here’s hoping that “Massive Talent” will help jumpstart Nicolas’ career into even grander projects and that talk shows won’t wait another 14 years to invite him back. I’m good with 14 weeks. How about 14 days? 14 hours will work too.
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Directed by: Tom Gormican
Written by: Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, and Neil Patrick Harris
Runtime: 107 minutes