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MOVIES: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent - Review

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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is exactly what you’d expect a film where Nicolas Cage plays himself to be about. It’s a comedy that calls back to Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, a glorious romp throughout the history of Cage’s filmography whilst also offering up something new and inventive; as the actor is hired by a wealthy reclusive billionaire to be the guest of honour at his birthday party. Cage – experiencing troubles landing his next gig and gatecrashing his daughter’s birthday party – jumps at the opportunity to do so – but quickly finds himself in way over his head.

This is a movie that references everything from Con Air to Mandy – the film touches on what Cage means as an actor to many people and how even his weaker films show that he’s still very much a Hollywood star who hasn’t been away – with last year’s Pig, he’s very much still a force to be reckoned with. Here Cage’s self-aware self-decrepitation is charming – he’s at his lowest point in his life, racking up multiple hotel bills and needs a win. He’s constantly haunted by the ghost of Cage from an era where he was on top of the world – and it’s a movie where you see him at his best too – striking up an unlikely friendship with Javi, played by the wonderful Pedro Pascal – a superfan who brings a sense of effortless comedic charm to the role. The chemistry between Cage and Pascal carries the movie even in its weaker parts – the duo are never dull together even if there is a sense of hidden danger lurking behind Pascal’s Javi – that the CIA are aware of, and end up recruiting Cage to spy on his friend. Can actor-turned-superspy pull off the job of a lifetime?

Tom Gormican’s meta comedy feels aimed at a broader audience and doesn’t quite go as deep as it could have done – which is a real shame given Cage isn’t afraid to take potshots at the current state of Hollywood and offer tongue in cheek criticisms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The depth isn’t quite there to sustain The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent through its emotion-driven action set-pieces but then it isn’t trying to be anything but a light-hearted comedy - go too far in the other direction and you risk losing that. Much of the emotion is carried by Pascal here – his expressions bring a whole world of personality to Javi’s character and you buy the adoration that he has for Cage. The comedy itself isn’t afraid to be clever without being too clever – there’s never a sense that the movie thinks it’s above its audience. Whilst those familiar with Cage’s filmography will find themselves at home The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent can feel watchable to anyone who isn’t as familiar with Face/Off or Con Air.

Debuting at the right time as counter-programming to Fantastic Beasts, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent feels like a breath of fresh air. Not bogged down by the need for sequels or to be a part of a wider cinematic universe – the film flies by like a charm. Much of the strength in that is due to the chemistry between Cage and Pascal – at one point – their bond over Javi’s favourite films is a sheer delight – and the performances of the excellent supporting cast. Tiffany Haddish is ace as Vivian, a CIA agent – Neil Patrick Harris as Cage’s agent could easily be reprising his role from The Matrix Resurrections – but This Way Up’s Sharon Horgan excels as Cage’s wife, a makeup artist. The chemistry is there and it’s a joy to watch the back and forth between two brilliant stars that make you think Cage has always been in on the joke. That’s why this movie works as well as it does – Cage lends into the role superbly and you absolutely buy his over-the-top caricature. Never before has an unbearable weight felt so easy to watch.

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