Directed by: Tom Gormican
Premise: Actor Nicolas Cage (playing himself) accepts an invitation to attend the birthday party of a wealthy businessman (Pedro Pascal). Cage is contacted by CIA agents who believe that this superfan is actually a gangster holding a young woman hostage.
What Works: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a buddy action comedy and these sorts of movies largely succeed or fail based on the lead actors. Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal make a great on-screen duo. Cage plays a version of himself who is exhausted and disillusioned with the movie industry but Pascal’s character has the enthusiasm of a fan and each man is inspired by the other. This film could easily go wrong and become a self-aggrandizing ego piece but The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent instead pokes fun at Hollywood excess and celebrity culture. It does everything right that The Bubble did wrong. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is self-aware enough to show the audience that the filmmakers are in on the joke and Cage has some fun at his own expense, sending up his public image and the egotism of movie stardom. But the friendship that blooms between Cage and Pascal’s characters feels genuine as does Cage’s strained relationship with his ex-wife and daughter (Sharon Horgan and Lily Sheen). The filmmakers contrast superficial Hollywood values with meaningful human connection and dramatic stakes that give the story substance. Throughout the film, Cage and Pascal’s characters develop their own script and the story they concoct reflects their new friendship but also the conventions of commercial filmmaking. It’s primarily a story of friendship and a man rediscovering a sense of purpose but it’s also a comedy and an action picture and it does the character-driven scenes and the genre aspects equally well. The combination allows The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent to reflect on the way cinema shapes our perception of reality and the way movies can bring people together. The filmmakers gradually raise the stakes, topping one conflict on top of another, and build up to a climax that pulls everything together.
What Doesn’t: Nicolas Cage has had a long career and made a lot of films, some very good and others that were terrible. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent only scratches the surface of Cage’s filmography. References are made to a few of his recent movies and some of his big blockbusters, namely Face/Off, but the movie misses the breadth of Cage’s filmography and the weird and low budget projects that have marked the last decade of his career.
Bottom Line: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is an enjoyable buddy action comedy with a meta twist. The movie is a lot of fun in part because of its self-awareness but especially because of the skillful storytelling and the likeable friendship between Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal’s characters.
Episode: #899 (May 1, 2022)