In The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, Nicolas Cage makes out with himself. Literally.
Not only will this tell you if you’re the target audience for The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, but it should be more than enough to prompt you to pre-order your ticket before you finish reading this sentence. This is a movie for the person who bookmarks YouTube clips of Cage yelling the alphabet in Vampire’s Kiss. Who drops “NOT THE BEES!” into conversations whether or not it’s relevant. And who at least thought about ordering pajamas designed with Cage’s face stretched across them when a website offered them online. You will feel seen.
Considering how many mediocre films fans have sat through in order to be considered a Cage completist, The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent is a well-deserved reward. Pay The Ghost might refute the actor’s claim that he’s never phoned in a performance, and Left Behind might live up to its title, but director Tom Gormican and co-writer and executive producer Kevin Etten deliver the ultimate Cage experience, with the possible exception of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, which may never be topped. This is the best possible version of one of those direct-to-video films, and everything a fan could want from Cage.
How this might play to more casual Cage fans who know him mainly from stuff like Leaving Las Vegas and Moonstruck remains to be seen. But as a meta-commentary on fandom in general, it’s refreshing to see a superfan who looks more like Pedro Pascal than The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy, especially in a world where so-called “geek” franchises like Star Wars and Marvel are beloved by a huge cross-section of society.
The real Nicolas Cage is reportedly quite shy. The Cage who appears in The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent is loud, loquacious, and narcissistic, with a career in decline and relationships with wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and daughter Addy (Lily Sheen) that are estranged. Sheen, the child of Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale, has real-world experience as a celebrity daughter, but creating this fictional family alleviates potential copyright problems for Cage’s real one, since his own child is named after DC’s First Son of Krypton, Kal-El.
Depressed, drunk, and on the verge of quitting acting, Cage accepts a million-dollar offer to attend a wealthy fan’s birthday party in Mallorca. Javi (Pedro Pascal) hopes Cage will like his screenplay and make a movie with him, but their fast friendship hits a snag when the superfan turns out to be the head of a major crime family, complete with a kidnapped girl stashed in his fortresslike estate. Two CIA agents, played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz (reuniting from The Oath), use Cage’s paternal guilt to pressure him into spying for them.
As a pretext to spy longer, Cage convinces Javi to collaborate on a new script, which unsurprisingly mirrors the movie that viewers are watching. It’s an adept riff on Adaptation, especially since the actor once again plays two parts—the “present-day” Cage and young “Nicky” from his Wild At Heart era, appearing as a hallucination to admonish his present-day self.
Gormican and Etten’s knowledge of Cage is detailed enough to repeatedly drop phrases through the film like “nouveau shamanic,” a term he has used in real life to describe his acting technique. Naturally, they prefer twitchy, shouty Cage over his more subdued alter egos, leaving Pascal to handle the more human moments. In fact, Javi proves so lovable that the filmmakers arguably give him a pass for some of his poor behavior, but they follow it with a twist that justifies the choice.
If the movie were just meme-able moments, it might run out of steam, even with Cage delivering them practically nonstop. Thankfully, there’s an actual plot, which allows everyone else (and the film as a whole) to spoof less Cage-specific tropes. At the same time, in idolizing Cage’s nouveau-shamanic style—such as it is—the movie even makes time to poke fun at method acting, simultaneously throwing a bit of shade at actors like Jared Leto who swear by the practice.
Giving Cage a scolding, Irish ex-wife is a great choice, and Horgan not only serves up righteous realness but occasionally out-swears him with a well-placed “fookin’ Jaysus!” That said, none of his co-stars can top his inevitably insta-viral signature line “Nic FUCKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING Cage,” which he screams with exactly as much unique, unforgettable intensity as you’d expect.
Once again, that’s probably all that you need to hear. But even if metatextual storytelling sometimes can feel a bit too much like filmmakers chasing their own tails, The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent offers viewers a unique and welcome alternative: Nicolas Cage slipping himself a little tongue.