The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)
Directed by Tom Gormican
Starring Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal and Tiffany Haddish
My wife and fellow film lover, Pauline, loathes the performances of Nicolas Cage. Whether he’s playing Sailor in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), Johnny Blaze in Marvel Comics’ adapted Ghost Rider (2007) or Red Miller in recent cult classic Mandy (2018), she finds his artifice alarming and is put off by his over-the-top antics. Why, then, did she love The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent?
In her words: he’s “FINALLY he is being himself.”
And she’s right. In this second film from director Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment, 2014), Nicholas Cage plays a stylized version of Nicholas Cage. Joining him in the film’s cast is Pedro Pascal as Cage superfan Javi Gutierrez and, although there are other actors and performances in this film, none matter except this duo.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a romance without the love scenes. Sure, there are elements of action, suspense and comedy, but the defining aspect of this film is the love these two characters nurture for each other. Gutierrez serves an avatar for all the Nic Cage fans that disagree with the narrative that he isn’t a good actor, whereas Cage’s character functions as a stand-in for his detractors. He’s constantly doubting his skills, his decisions and his worth as a human being… the same things that the media, and to a larger extent the Internet, have doubted about Cage for more than 15 years. And the way Cage’s character confronts and ultimately overcomes this sense of self-doubt is glorious.
The action in the Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is well choreographed and seems rooted in practical effects, giving a sense of weight that’s difficult to achieve with CGI or camera trickery. This is balanced perfectly with comedic one liners that work…most of the time. Even when they don’t, we are on to the next scene with a chance for comedic retribution.
Coming in at 1 hour and 47 minutes, there wasn’t a single moment during this film when I didn’t want to be in my seat, next to the Nicolas Cage skeptic, hoping she’d catch a glimpse of what I have always enjoyed about Cage’s unabashed breakdown of self through character’s like Terence McDonagh in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009), a pair of Kuafmans in Adaptation (2002) and most recently as Rob in Pig (2021). It’s strange that the film he plays as himself is the film that Pauline finally saw this unabashed breakdown of self on its full glorious display. Also, if you have yet to view Paddington 2 (2017) you will seek it out after this film…whoa META!
If every other Nicolas Cage film is somewhere between an F and an A, then this is a B+.