Still of Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Film Review: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Film Reviews

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Director: Tom Gormican

Saturn Films and Burr! Productions
In Theaters 04.22

I’m still on a bit of a high from Pig, the 2021 film that signaled the return of Nicolas Cage to the world of being taken seriously as an actor. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, the much-hyped meta-comedy starring Cage as himself, isn’t Pig. Instead of showcasing Cage the actor, the new film signals his return as a movie star.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a fictional story about Cage, who has recently been passed over for a role that he really wanted to play, and struggling in his relationship with his daughter (Lily Mo Sheen), unable to connect to her because he stubbornly insists on connecting in his way. When Cage loses the role, he is despondent and wants to quit acting but is still plagued by debt. It’s then that the actor’s agent (played by Neil Patrick Harris) calls with an offer of a $1 million payday just to attend the birthday of a billionaire super-fan, Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian, Wonder Woman 1984). The party offers a chance for a nice getaway to a majestic villa on the island of Mallorca, and Cage is surprised to find himself bonding with the eccentric but likable Javi. The situation takes a wrong turn when two CIA operatives, Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz, The Afterparty), tell Cage that Javi is a dangerous arms dealer who has kidnapped the daughter of a political figure. The government agents pressure the hapless actor to work for them in order to bring Javi down, and Cage finds himself in the middle of the greatest acting challenge of his life.

The clever script by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten has plenty of wit and a strong familiarity with Cage’s up and down, both on-screen and off. As a director, Gormican keeps the movie going at a good pace, timing both the comedy and the action well enough to deliver solid entertainment. The hype that The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has received is a lot to live up to, and viewers should enter the movie with realistic expectations. The presence of Cage playing not just himself, but his de-aged, imaginary younger alter ego, Nicky, easily conjures visions of something more akin to Adaptation or Being John Malkovich, but this isn’t a cerebral film. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a fun, quirky action-comedy that delivers laughs and lightweight excitement.

Cage is the chief selling point here, and he rises to the challenge of poking fun at his own image while still creating a memorable protagonist for the story. It’s a performance that requires a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness combined with confidence and poise, and while I’m hesitant to compare it to the brilliance of Michael Keaton in Birdman, it’s a splendid achievement. As the younger, Wild at Heart-era Nicky Cage—billed on the credits as Nicolas Kim Coppola—Cage gets to indulge in hilarious, fearless self-parody that is a must-see for fans, and the interplay between Cages is a hoot. 

Pascal, a terrific actor who unfortunately hasn’t been given anything good to work with in a couple of years (unless he’s under a helmet holding a muppet), matches Cage’s energy but is enough of a pro to know not to try to steal focus. Gormican’s strongest achievement as a director is in making sure the performances complement each other rather than ever becoming a game of one-upmanship. Sharon Horgan (Together, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) is delightful as a fictional ex-wife named Olivia—a make-up artist who worked on Captain Corelli’s Mandolin—Haddish adds her usual amusing comic flair to the proceedings.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is going to play best to Nic Cage fans with its references galore to his previous work. But it’s surprisingly accessible to those who are aware of the actor but not exactly devotees of his career at large. While there’s more crossover potential than I had expected, there’s also no question that this is  a Nicolas Cage movie relying heavily on his one-of-a-kind presence. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a silly, enjoyable excursion that succeeds at being exactly what it wants to be, and powerful proof that the newly debt-free star, finally able to be more selective about his projects again, ranks among the most exciting things to happen to Hollywood in a while. Here’s to hoping for a fruitful and offbeat renaissance. –Patrick Gibbs

Read more reviews of Nic Cage films, flops or not: 
Film Review: Pig
Film Review: Willy’s Wonderland