The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a brilliantly titled film starring Nicolas Cage as… Nic Cage. Bringing an entirely new take to meta filmmaking, it’s possibly the most absurd film you’ll see all year. The problem is that instead of sticking to full-blown meta comedy, this tries to bring in an actual plot full of heart and thrills that just doesn’t work.
The film follows Nic Cage, who’s struggling with his acting career after having been passed over for numerous major film roles. He’s obsessed with retaining his starring role status, much to the chagrin and disappointment of his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and teenage daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen). He’s also constantly pestered by Nicky, a younger more successful version of himself. After failing to get another major role, he gets drunk and embarrasses Addy at her birthday party, finally deciding to retire from acting for good. But before he does so, he accepts a $1 million proposal put to him by his agent Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) to be a guest to billionaire playboy Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) in Majorca.
Javi is a Nicolas Cage superfan and has invited Nic to his estate to be the guest of honour on his birthday. However, he has ulterior motives, as he is hoping Nic will read a screenplay he has written and agree to star in his very own movie. At first, Nic is resistant to Javi’s plans, but he’s soon inspired by Javi’s script and the pair bond over their shared love of films. After a fun-filled evening, Nic is kidnapped by a couple of CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) who inform him that Javi is actually a crime lord who has abducted the Majorcan president’s daughter and they need Nic’s help to find her. Now Nic is forced to be the action star he’s always portrayed in order to save the day.
This is by far the most meta film you will ever see. Nicolas Cage playing an over the top, caricature version of himself poking fun at his own career is a work of genius and kudos to the man to be brave enough to do so. There can’t be a film fan out there that hasn’t marvelled at how Cage’s career has evolved, and to see the man himself be so self-referential about his own myth is incredibly amusing and clever. And fans of Nicolas Cage will be delighted at the number of references this manages to cram in, anything from his 90s classics like Face/Off and Con Air to the more recent animated Croods 2.
Cage himself puts in a stellar performance and probably one of his best in years, bringing everything we love from his repertoire across the decades. This alongside his buddy relationship with Pedro Pascal, who wonderfully portrays a bright-eyed eager fan, makes the pair a delight to watch. However, the younger, CGI version of Cage as Nicky is contrastingly rather disturbing to watch as he isn’t particularly funny and just doesn’t look or feel quite right.
The meta-nature of this film is so absurd that just the idea of it proves to be continually amusing throughout 1 hour 47-minute run time. However, the majority of the laugh out loud jokes have been used in the trailer so are completely wasted. There’s only a small number of fresh, new laughs, so the bulk of the humour in this is coming from the amusing and ridiculous nature of the concept. And whilst this is undoubtedly a funny concept, it isn’t enough to compete with the rest of the plot.
And this is the main issue here, that they’ve tried to give the film a plot that could quite easily have been taken straight out of Cage’s own back catalogue and it’s entirely unnecessary. It’s a completely over the top, action spectacle that also has some needless family drama thrown in for good measure. I found the heart-warming family moments to be very irritating and the thrills were clichéd and nothing new. I would’ve liked this film a lot more had they just kept this as a low key, indie style affair without any of the Hollywood melodrama. Nic Cage just being Nic Cage, chatting about films and life with Pedro Pascal is much more appealing than drug lords and family clichés.
The meta nature of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is absurd yet utterly genius and Cage’s portrayal of himself is hugely entertaining and the best we’ve seen from him in years. It’s just a shame this has been ruined by the unnecessary plot and drama.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!