Tom Gormican’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a love letter to the career of Nicolas Cage and a blast to review. The actor stars as himself alongside Pedro Pascal. It’s an Action-Comedy about fandom, family, and Nic Cage, with plenty of meta comments to make. There’s Cage movie references galore, from Con-Air to Mandy to The Wicker Man. The movie even uses behind the scenes information in comedic fashion.
The movie lets its star deliver exactly the kind of performance we want to see. It’s a good time, especially for fans of the actor, but at times the movie suffers a bit from juggling so much. According to an interview with the Hollywood Reporter the director considered Daniel Day Lewis and Christian Bale for the role. As fun as it is to picture those performances, they made the right call getting the legend himself on board.
Story – Cage Being Cage
Cage stars as a hyper-real version of himself. A star seeking former glory thats just out of reach. After failing to get cast in a major production, despite his self proclaimed “Nouveau-Shamanic acting ability” and facing a large amount of debt, our beloved Nic quits acting and takes on a job to attend Billionaire Javi Gutierrez’ (Pedro Pascal) birthday party. After a frosty start they find out they have a lot in common. However, the budding bromance is tested when the CIA get Cage to spy on Javi, the supposed head of an arms-smuggling Cartel. Our two protagonists work on a screenplay together as Cage collects intel. Javi is suspected to have kidnapped the daughter of a politician and Cage must find her, using his acting skills to keep his motives secret.
The film also follows Cage’s struggles with his family life. His self-centeredness has alienated him from his daughter and ex-wife. This takes the form of a serviceable sub plot. In a straight drama it may have been much more effective. Doing a review for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is like reviewing 2 movies in one. Part of it is a great character movie, the other is an action plot we have seen before. The movie is self aware of this but it could benefit from more focus.
The characters note the conventions of films, such as the difficulties of vision vs marketability whilst the film comes to life around them. There’s an evident love for Cage’s movies that makes it a great watch for fans of his. Numerous references and bits of trivia are dropped in. Just wait for the “grotesque” sculpture of Castor Troy from Face Off. The movie shines when indulging in the absurd but wonderful career of its star.
Characters and Performances – Nic and Javi, BFFs for life
A review of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent would be incomplete without mentioning the acting. You’re going to see Nicolas Cage, well, be Nicolas Cage. We get the full spectrum of his acting ability. From the well delivered drama to the wonderfully eccentric monologues. Nic Cage is in top crazy form without it becoming gratuitous. With all the memes and strange movie choices it’s easy to forget that he is actually a talented actor. His performance as a tired and depressed man who is deeply passionate about his work comes through as genuine and introspective.
Pedro Pascal keeps pace with movies star attraction as well. Javi is well developed, simultaneously menacing at times, but also a genuine awkward fan boy hanging out with his favorite actor. Pedro brings his all and is totally lovable as he embodies the role.
The chemistry the two leads have together is fantastic. Great comedy comes from their time together, including the great LSD tripping scene and a dramatic “go on without me” moment. Both actors show how being over-the-top can be wonderful to watch. In a piece centred around Nic Cage it could have taken away the limelight. However, the writing and performances make it enhance the movie, giving Cage a great partner to bounce off of.
Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, playing Cage’s CIA handlers also have strong chemistry and bring some great laughs. Lily Mo Sheen and Sharon Horgan deliver a nice grounded counterpart to Nic Cage as his daughter and ex-wife respectively. Without listing every actor in the movie it’s safe to say there isn’t a weak link in the cast. If you’re reading this review of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent to know if it’s worth it for the Cage performance, it certainly is.
Editing and Pacing – Snappy and Energetic
On a moment-to-moment basis the editing and pacing is good. The plot moves along nicely and theirs a good mix of drama and levity that works tonally for a strange movie about a strange actor. The movie never drags; however it has a lot of plots to juggle and it would be nice to spend more time in certain sections. Perhaps it’s just because I liked their chemistry so much, but I would have liked a bit more time with Pedro and Nic creating their movie. Ultimately it feels like the heart of the movie is lost to the action plot.
The pacing is quick and that keeps the movie feeling energetic, but the rigid 3 act structure could have used a little splicing. More time in the character review and retrospective part of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent would be a benefit. At times the more generic action plot feels at odds with the Cage vehicle, rather than enhancing it.
Cinematography and Sound – Nice Shooting
For a director with so few credits, Tom Gormican has shown an eye for cinematography. He’s made the most out of the filming locations in Croatia such as Dubrovnik (which you may remember from Game of Thrones). There are some creative shots in there mixed in with more generic but no less effective ones. We get plenty of time looking at Cage act, including his weird hallucinated younger and wilder self who conflicts with the older Nic. The CGI is a bit jarring. I personally found it fitting in a ‘so bad it’s good’ way, but for purposes of review it’s worth mentioning The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent didn’t solve the problem of how to do good younger CGI versions of actors. Other than that I found it to be well crafted from a film making perspective, even if it won’t necessarily blow any minds.
The same can be said with the sound. The guns sound great, especially the golden guns from Face-Off. The cars, voices and music are all well executed. The soundtrack isn’t the most memorable in the world, however does that matter compared to hearing Cage scream “NICOLAS F********************ING WOOO CAGE!!!” multiple times? Now that is music to my ears.