Film: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Compared to many, I’ve been an infrequent passenger on the Nicholas Cage train, which should explain my initial indifference to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)—a project engineered to allow the actor to shamelessly send up his larger-than-life persona. As such, it’s definitely targeted directly at Cage-o-philes, but ends up having more going for it than fan service, delivering an inventively meta action-comedy centered on a surprisingly charming bromance.

Cage plays himself, a famous Hollywood actor whose creative ambition—sent up with gleeful abandon—refuses to die. Cage’s career takes a hit when he loses out on a major role. That, combined with whopping financial debt, convince him to accept a lucrative but humiliating job as guest of honor at a birthday party in faraway Majorca. The client is Javi (Pedro Pascal), a wealthy film buff who also happens to be an aspiring screenwriter, trying to buy his way into Hollywood. But Javi also has ties to organized crime, and is currently under investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency. Two secret agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) recruit Cage to be their inside man investigating Javi, who is suspected of kidnapping the daughter of a political candidate. Can Nick Fucking Cage save the day?

The point of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is to give Nicholas Cage an opportunity to really Nicholas Cage up the place. If that’s what you’re in it for, you’ll walk away satisfied, because Cage brings his usual intense commitment to the table. He mostly plays it straight, and his deadly serious approach renders each absurd turn of the plot all the funnier. Great as Cage is, the film hinges on the delightful Pascal, whose boyish charms are key both to the central friendship and the humorous tone. The duo’s quirky interactions are the basis of the film’s success, aided by recursive metahumor as their fictional screenwriting collaboration clearly mirrors their ongoing circumstances. The script misses many opportunities to spotlight the rest of the cast: Barinholtz and Haddish are wasted, and most of the support is similarly underserved. Additionally, the film’s kitchen-sink approach to genre undergoes so many contortions that the pacing ends up wildly uneven. It’s not worth getting overly invested in, really, but fans of Cage, Pascal, and films that are cleverly self-aware will find plenty to enjoy.

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