The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a wonderful testament to the man, the myth, the legend that is Nicolas Cage. He plays “himself,” and also a younger version known as Nicky Cage who is a figment of his imagination. Cage fanatics will recognise that Nicky is based on Cage’s legendary appearance on the Terry Wogan show to promote Wild at Heart. Cage was reluctant to play himself, but after a letter from Tom Gormican he finally agreed to do the film—and realised it was going to be interesting, not some kind of SNL skit (which it so easily could’ve been).
In the film, Cage is at a crossroads in his career and is being passed over for major film roles. His relationships with his ex-wife and his daughter aren’t great. Nicky is also constantly tormenting him, making him a neurotic wreck. He is planning to retire, until his agent, Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), tells him about a job offer for a million dollars. All he has to do is go Majorca to meet billionaire playboy (and Cage superfan) Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), and be the guest of honour at his birthday party. Soon after Cage lands, he is contacted by CIA agents who suspect Javi is an arms dealer—but Cage has already bonded with his host over their mutual love of cinema, so he is conflicted.
It’s a rip-roaringly hilarious film from the onset, and it doesn’t matter if you’re the most devout fan of Cage or not. It feels like a culmination of the indie work that Cage has been doing for the last few years, like Mandy and Pig, but for a more mainstream audience. The bromance story that develops between Cage and Javi is very funny and endearing, it’s what moves the film along. The script is solid; it owes a lot to Charlie Kaufman’s work (especially Adaptation, which starred Cage) but deploys similar ideas in a more user-friendly fashion.
The action stuff that the film descends into may not be the greatest you’ve ever seen, especially if you are constantly referencing Face/Off and Con Air. However, in the end it doesn’t matter, you will just have a big smirk on your whole face. There are some wildly entertaining set-pieces, including a completely out-of-the-blue scene involving LSD. Cage is clearly relishing the opportunity to play himself, despite his initial reluctance—apparently his original proposal was for somebody else to play Cage while he played Javi, which was also a very intriguing idea. It’s nice to see Cage has fully clawed his way back onto the Hollywood A-List after his wild VOD years, which had such highs and such lows. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is also reportedly Cage’s 100th film, and I couldn’t think of a better film to be this landmark for the actor.
The Blu-Ray includes a nice selection of extras, including a commentary with writer/director Tom Gormican and writer Kevin Etten. The highlight is a deleted scene that really shouldn’t have been deleted, which is done in the German expressionist style of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There is another deleted scene, plus commentary tracks for both scenes. The rest of the extras are six short featurettes and the Q&A from the film’s premiere at SXSW.