Review: “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Screen legend Nicolas Cage shines in the role he was born to play … himself, where he rediscovers friendship, family, and his love for acting.

In one scene from “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” Nick Cage is led into a room that is dedicated to his entire career, filled with memorabilia and a “grotesque” figure of himself from the movie “Face/Off.” When Nick stares at himself in disbelief and amazement before offering to pay $20,000 for it, I couldn’t help but feel the same way while watching this film.

We follow a fictionalized version of Nicolas Cage who is creatively stumped and saddled with debt, accepting an invitation to be a guest at a dodgy superfan’s birthday party for $1 million. If you are a fan of Cage’s filmography, you will greatly enjoy the film’s many references to Cage’s most notable movies including “Face/Off,” “Con Air,” “National Treasure,” “Mandy,” and even “The Croods: A New Age.” Anyone familiar with Cage’s prolific career knows he’s capable of doing any genre, and those skills shine in this film. Director Tom Gormican creates an interesting blend of the action, comedy, romance, and spy genres in this film and Cage expertly navigates this to bring us the best experience. Cage builds upon all of his previous performances and gives a genuine performance of himself that is heartfelt but also playful.

Cage’s chemistry with co-star Pedro Pascal, who plays superfan Javi Gutierrez, is very enjoyable to watch. Although this is their first film together and their onscreen characters have only known each other for maybe two days, it feels like they have been best friends for years. Cage and Pascal’s energy bounces off each other in a way that makes every joke hit, especially in the scene where they are running away from people who they think are spies and Nick has to dramatically leave Javi behind with a touching goodbye. The scenes where the two of them are together steal the show — and I mean steal the show. They playfully dip their toes in the romantic comedy genre with scenes and shots that feel like you are watching an indie rom-com. The film then switches genres and turns into an action-adventure spy film when Nick is recruited by the CIA to investigate Javi, who might be an international crime boss. Although we do get some comedic scenes of Cage trying his best to be a spy, including a scene with CIA agent Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) trying to guide Nick through a mission while he fails spectacularly, it takes up time that could have been spent developing Nick and Javi’s relationship more. This is an issue that falls prey to the film’s overall editing, which could have been better paced to give more time to flesh out Nick’s relationship with not only Javi, but his ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) and daughter (Lily Mo Sheen). His family is what grounds him, separating his career from the real world, and adding more screen time for them could have made us care more about them.

The film never takes itself too seriously, and just throws everything at the wall with its self-awareness. The movie constantly references itself in many different ways that get dangerously close to overbearing. The meta commentary about the film industry works better when it is subtle, rather than when it is in your face. The film also includes the addition of Nicky (also played by Cage), a figment of Nick’s imagination who physically resembles a younger Cage. Nicky periodically shows up to plague Nick’s mind about his career choices and make fun of himself. While this gives Cage a chance to portray his energetic younger self and do wacky things like kiss and smack himself, it doesn’t do much for Nick’s character arc. Nicky’s presence sometimes felt off, and if removed, the film would have roughly remained the same, which is interesting since the character of Nicky is what drew Cage to the project.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a rollercoaster of genres, emotions and action packed scenes that overall make for a wonderfully fun experience. Cage has so much fun portraying himself in a way that — funnily enough — couldn’t be further from who he is in real life. It is a great homage to Cage and his career, and will leave you wanting to watch his best movies again.

Grade: B
Directed by: Tom Gormican
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz
Rated: R
Released: April 22, 2022

Image courtesy of Slant Magazine