There are a few things that I want to get out of the way right off the bat before getting into the meat of the review.
- I am a massive Nicholas Cage fan, and as such, I was always likely to enjoy what is unabashedly a love letter to the actor, his filmography, and many quirks.
- You do not have to be a Nick Cage superfan to enjoy this movie. My partner, who knows him best from the ‘National Treasure’ film will attest to that.
Nicholas Cage is a bit of an enigma. Is he the Hollywood action star who appeared in hits like Face/Off, The Rock, and Con Air? Or is he the Oscar-winning dramatic actor from Pig, Leaving Las Vegas, or Red Rock West? A quick scan at the Rotten Tomato scores of some of his late 2000’s films might posit that he might be more accurately described as an actor with an inability to turn down a script, no matter how advisable that might be. So, is Nick Cage a serially underrated actor, or is an internet meme more famous for screaming “Not the bees!” at the top of his lungs?
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – directed and co-written by Tom Gormican – is seemingly hard to pin down. At times it’s a riotous buddy comedy, anchored by the palpable chemistry between Cage (playing two – yes you read that right – fictionalised versions of himself) and Pedro Pascal (playing a Nick Cage superfan). At other times it resembles something closer to a spy-thriller, with stunts that wouldn’t look out of place in Gone in Sixty Seconds or The Rock. It also finds time to offer a farcical, yet self-aware, meta-commentary on Hollywood – and Cage himself – in a way that could be described as resembling a Nic Cage fever dream. This film is anything if predictable, and you never really know what’s coming next.
One thing is for certain though – it’s the most Nicholas Cage thing that you’ll ever see. In a role he was born to play (excuse the pun), the film about Nicholas Cage (played by Nicholas Cage playing Nicholas Cage) sees the star often interacting with, yelling at, or making out with, an imaginary Nicholas Cage (a long-haired and sleazy reimaging of him with delusions of grandeur). Then there’s Javi (Pascal), an unabashed Nic Cage superfan who has an entire room devoted to the actor (which features some of the creepiest Cage memorabilia imaginable).
The film also features constant references to a vast majority of his films throughout, and many jokes levelled at Cage’s meme-able public persona. None of this is mean-spirited or cynical, and the actor is obviously in on the joke, revelling in the chance to lean in to embrace his quirky nature. Equally, the film steers clear of some of the sharper elbowed takes on Cage and Cage memedom, which sees him as less of a person and more an abstract target for ridicule.
Based on this assessment it would be fair to assume that your enjoyment of the film would rely on your knowledge of, and attachment to, its protagonist. And yes, for a film that, at times, almost veers into fanfiction territory, those Cage fans (like myself) who have been hanging out for what seemed like forever to finally see it, and absolutely going to love the film.
However, thanks in large part to the dynamic between Pedro Pascal and Cage, their brilliant comedic timing, and ability to deliver genre-savvy dialogue without the grating nod and wink that often accompanies it in other films.
In the hands of a less talented director (or someone with less appreciation of its star), or less committed actors, this film could have played more like 1997’s Spice World (for those of you lucky enough to miss out on sitting through Spice World, take a look – the parallels are there for all to see). Instead, we’re treated to a than the brilliantly entertaining (and oddly emotionally resonant) film that offers a wild and wonderful tribute to the Nicholas “Fucking” Cage.
Image: Studio Canal