Whether you love or hate him, one can’t deny that Nicolas Case has made a major impact in Hollywood throughout his career. From his very eccentric acting style to internet memes that have flooded social media, he has been somewhat of a cultural icon that I’m embracing even if I’m not the biggest fan of some of his decisions in the films he chooses to be in the past decade. The reason I’m bringing him up to this degree is because not only is he the star of his newest film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, but he’s playing a fictionized version of himself done in a meta way.
When I first heard about The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, I was somewhat intrigued. While I may not be the biggest Nicolas Cage fan, I am eager to see what project he’s attached to if it has potential, and this film looked like it had potential. In my previous paragraph, I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the decisions he made when picking films. I say that because he would choose films that would be straight to Redbox quality movies, to ones where it would be an easy payday. Then again, I don’t blame him as he faced some money problems during the late 2000s/early 2010s, which required him to accept many film roles as possible in order to payoff his debt. He did, however, make some gems, such as having a small role in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and psychedelic horror film Mandy (2018). Does The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent fit the category of being a Nicolas Cage hidden gem? As usual, let’s find out.
In the meta The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, we follow actor Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Cage) who is in a bit of a slump. He keeps getting passed over for major film roles and his relationship with his daughter Addy (Lily Cage) and ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) isn’t in the greatest condition. On top of that, he keeps getting tormented by his younger self who he calls Nicky (Nicolas Cage), who constantly reminds him of his glory days which puts our protagonist in a deeper slump. One day his agent Richard (Neil Patrick Harris) tells him about a gig to appear at a billionaire’s birthday party, though he declines despite the fact he currently owes the hotel he’s been staying at $600,000. However, after embarrassing himself at his daughter’s birthday party, he discovers that he didn’t get a part he was eager to get and gets locked out of his hotel room, forcing him to take the vague offer. When he gets to the residence of the billionaire, he meets Javi (Pedro Pascal), who happens to be the billionaire though Nic Cage is unaware of that and makes a bad first impression. However, that doesn’t seem to bother Javi as he is excited to finally meet his favorite actor, though Nic Cage has other feelings. He is clearly coasting through the trip just for the money and when Javi tries to make conversation, the famous actor announces that he is retiring from acting, which puts Javi in a sullen mood. The next morning one of Javi’s maids wakes Nic Cage and forces him to meet up with Javi to check out cliffs near the residence with the billionaire fanboy. He reluctantly goes, and it turns out that his hesitance is warranted: in the middle of the drive Javi creates a dangerous action scenario as if they were in a movie. Despite being annoyed at first by this act, Nic Cage decides to go with the flow and after a near-death experience jumping off a cliff, he starts to have fun and him and Javi start a legit friendship, talking about movies to watching Paddington 2 (2017). All seems to be going well, but little does Nic Cage know, he is being tracked by two Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): agents Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz), who kidnap the actor after hours. They inform him that Javi is not who he seems, and that he is really an arms dealer who has kidnaped a daughter of an anti-crime politician who is a key part of an important election. They believe he’s using the girl as a way for the politician to drop out of the race. After hearing the information, the CIA agents want Nic Cage to infiltrate the billionaire compound for clues that’ll help them find the missing girl, though Nic Cage initially refuses. They then resort to guilt tripping him, which then transitions to trying to find any clues for the missing girl while still keeping a friendship with Javi until they find the girl.
If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan, you may either love The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent or feel pretty disappointed by it. I mention the latter because if you’re going into this expecting a crazy, over the top Nicolas Cage film where his acting is completely unhinged, then you might be, as I said, disappointed. Because I’m a pretty average fan of the wildly popular actor, I found myself enjoying this film for what it is and went along with the ride.
When I was watching The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, one thing that I realized halfway through is that if the filmmakers couldn’t get Nicolas Cage on board with the film, the overall narrative still would’ve work. Instead of Nicolas Cage, they could’ve gotten another actor or make up one entirely. I say that because the movie does a great job of not relying too much on the star power of Nicolas Cage to where it wouldn’t be possible to make this film differently. This was a major relief because the filmmakers could’ve easily went with the gimmick of the famous actor for a quick buck but instead making a quality film. That said, Nicolas Cage’s presence in the film does provide great meta humor and references to his own life to where I’m not sure if it would’ve worked to the same degree if they chose another actor or make it about a fictional one. One can wonder.
In my description paragraph of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, I mentioned how Javi creates an action scenario as if they were in a movie. To go further into that scene, Javi convinces Nic Cage to play along because he tells him that he has a gift that has been touched by many and retiring would be turning his back on the world by not providing the gift of acting. In previous reviews for The Legionnaire, we’ve mentioned how God has blessed us with unique gifts that we have to share with others. During that moment of dialogue, I couldn’t help but think back to those reviews for a second because of how much we’ve expressed that element of God’s blessing in those reviews. The gift in this film isn’t like the ones we’ve talked about before such as having a super power or having a unique talent that’s pretty mundane but useful (i.e American Sign Language in CODA (2021)), but here it’s Nicolas Cage’s acting. Whether you think he’s the best actor ever or the most overrated one, you can’t sugarcoat that Nicolas Cage has brought joy to others due to his eccentric acting and crazy films that he’s been associated with. I just hope he’s here to stay just so he can keep providing his wonderful gift for years to come.
Any complaints that I do have about The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent are minor, but they are, unfortunately, present. One, for example, is the pacing, particularly in the second act. I did get some laughs here and there, but I feel like the film was running out of steam and was getting a bit bored with the narrative. Despite that, though, the third act features a unique plot twist and brought the film back to life with action scenes that felt nonstop but not in an over-the-top way that would’ve taken me out of the film. Another complaint I do have, though it’s minor, are the jokes. Don’t get me wrong, I did get some good laughs, but the trailer gave me the impression that I was going to laugh constantly throughout the film. Then again, that could be a nitpick because I’m not the biggest fan of Nicolas Cage compared to others and if I was, I probably would’ve gotten more laughs. Probably.
When I saw The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, it was the third out of the four films I saw that weekend I viewed this film. The other three were The Bad Guys, The Northman, and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, and if I had to be truly honest, this film was my least favorite out of the four due to its flaws, some pacing issues, and not every joke hitting its mark. That said, even though I didn’t love it to the same degree as those other films, I still had a good times watching The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. If you’re a fan of Nicolas Cage, then I don’t doubt that that you will have a good time as well. Not to give the ending away, but it did have a sweet ending that I wasn’t expecting and did leave a good impression on me when I left the theatre. There are some crude moments here and there, including a scene where Nic Cage and Javi take lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) while planning a movie together, but if you can overlook that, then I’m sure that you’ll enjoy this film as I did. After watching this film, I began to wonder what other actor or actress that has a cult following will star as themselves with the same comedic effect? Samuel L. Jackson perhaps? Who knows?