So, full disclosure, I’m not a Nicolas Cage expert. As Ike Barinholtz’s character remarks in the trailer, ‘I’ve seen Face/Off and Con Air’. And also Adaptation, Mom and Dad, National Treasure, Raising Arizona, and Valley Girl (his debut appearance). But I haven’t done an in-depth study of the Cage’s filmography, so I’m sure I missed a lot of easter eggs.
That said… The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is enjoyable as heck. It’s marketed as Nicolas Cage being himself – uninhibited, insane, subdued, dramatic, ironic, iconic, shouting… This is the sort of movie that you really only get one shot at making well, and thank God they delivered. The Cage is in peak form, with a character who runs the gamut of drama, comedy, and sheer absurdity. He even plays a younger ‘twin’ of himself, which is a throwback to his role in Wild at Heart (apparently), and also a nod to Adaptation.
Plot-wise, without giving too much away… It’s about Nicolas Cage. As the characters literally explain, it’s a multi-layered, nuanced character drama, with TWO Christ figures (gasp) – Cage and Pedro Pascal. And it’s not a generic Star Wars or Marvel movie (they actually say this out loud, and it’s great, especially considering that Pascal plays the Mandalorian). The closest comparison I could think of was Seven Psychopaths, but even that’s a loose comparison… Overall, the concept seems very fresh and original.
Another high point is the talented side characters. Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz have fun with their roles as government agents. Sharon Horgan is in top-notch comic form as Cage’s wife. And Pedro Pascal… Damn… It’s not easy playing on Cage’s level, but Pascal is endearing, convincing, committed, and incredibly likeable.
And yet – they never steal the spotlight. The director very, VERY smartly allows the story to focus on Cage. Even though Pascal is (theoretically) just as important to the plot, this is Cage’s film through and through. And he modulates between laugh-out-loud comedy and heart-warming drama with ease. It’s a sight to behold, unironically. The meta elements only serve to enhance the story, mainly via comedy, not detract from it.
My only (very minor) complaints are… 1) I thought the Paddington 2 stuff was overrated, but that’s because I’m probably the only one who thinks Paddington 2 is overrated… 2) The ending was a little too… nice. I was expecting the finality and closure of A Star is Born, and less of a midlife-crisis-being-overcome. Do I want to see more Cage? Yes. But would it have worked well if they played it as his finale? Yes.
What I mean is: it’s the sort of role that, if he stopped here, I think his fans would be satisfied. This one feels like such a quintessentially Cage film, that it may be hard to top… But that’s ultimately a compliment to his massive talent. Overall, I highly recommend the movie, whether you’re a newcomer to the Cage or a long-time aficionado.