Review: Nicolas Cage confronts Nick Cage in ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’

Review: Nicolas Cage is Nick Cage in ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent'

The meta comedy breaks open the idea of celebrity through the unabashed lens of one of Hollywood's most iconic names.
Published: April 22, 2022

"The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" (2022) official Red Band trailer.

Nick Cage, played by Nicolas Cage, is having an identity crisis. As Nicky, a deranged Jiminy Cricket in the form of a digitally de-aged Nick played by Nicolas Kim Coppola, wildly reminds Nick, he’s “Nick f–ing Cage.”

But who is Nick f–ing Cage?

Enter the very meta, very thoughtful The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent directed by Tom Gormican and co-written by Gormican and Kevin Etten. Cage plays a fictionalized, down-on-his-luck version of himself trying to figure out who he is when he separates Nick Cage the star from Nick Cage the person – if that’s even possible. No Cage movie or meme lay untouched in this absurd and inventive exploration of the performance and myth-making of a celebrity.

Nick is out of cash and options. So, out of desperation, he accepts a $1 million deal to make a guest appearance at the birthday party of billionaire super fan Javi Gutierrez, played by Pedro Pascal. Of course, this is a Cage movie, so things quickly spiral out of control when the CIA informs Nick that Javi is a cartel arms dealer who kidnapped the Catalonian president’s daughter. Suddenly Nick must snap into action to help the CIA, relying on his arsenal of roles from Face/Off to the making-of featurette of National Treasure.

Pascal and Cage are a match made in bromantic comedy heaven. Unbearable Weight soars when these two forces collide in the most unusual two-handers, ranging from a tender shared viewing of Paddington 2 to a frenetic, emotionally-wrought chase sequence over an unscalable wall. Their synergy makes the fact that the secondary characters are significantly less developed forgivable.

 

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage) greets Javi Gutierrez with a "Palm Hold Fist" salute as he arrives in Mallorca, Spain.

Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) greets Nick Cage with a

Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) greets Nick Cage with a "Palm Hold Fist" salute.

Pascal’s sweet, bashful Javi plays against extreme fan stereotypes. Sure, he has a password protected, grotesque shrine to every Nick Cage movie ever made. But Pascal isn’t playing the hyper-obsession for the obvious laugh. Instead, he leans into the earnest admiration and respect of a fan one childlike grin at a time. The gentleness Pascal brings to the role grounded Javi and created a perfect playground for Cage to freefall into Nick Cage.

And this freefall is where the film finds its weight. Gormican and Etten intentionally make it impossible for the audience to separate Nick Cage from Cage. Cage, in turn, leans fully into the character of Nicolas Cage created by four decades of media and public mythologizing. The real Cage is intensely private. He’s eccentric, and perhaps not always great with his money, but he’s nothing like the ticking time bombs he plays. But popular culture often conflates the on-screen personality with the off-screen. Celebrity becomes a grotesque fusion of the two, and in Unbearable Weight, Cage gives the celebrity performance of a lifetime with his erratic cadence, gaudy gold rings and egocentrism. Through Nick Cage’s identity crisis, we watch the real Cage wrestle his perceived and actual identities. He dons decades of jokes and unashamedly inhabits each and every one with complete sincerity and, in a refreshing nod to his early career, comedy.

While knowledge of Cage’s body of work is helpful, it’s not a necessity because the culture of Cage is so strong. And that’s where the brilliance of this film’s concept lies. What better person to explore the idea versus the reality of celebrity than the myth, the meme, the man himself Nicolas f–ing Cage?

Avatar for Katherine Kiessling

is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program and the Social Media Director for The NewsHouse.