Nicolas Cage is a Hollywood icon, thanks to his eccentric personality and trademark melodramatic acting approach. In the past decade, he has been the butt of many jokes and the face of various social media memes. Tom Gormican’s 2022 film, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” proves Cage is in on the joke and capitalizes on his penchant for eccentric roles, commitment to method acting and over-the-top characterizations that transform many a drama into unintended comedy.
The film follows Cage, who plays himself, divorced and drowning in debt, similar to his real-life circumstances just a decade ago. He is offered $1 million to appear at the birthday party of Spanish billionaire and Cage megafan Javi Gutierrez, played by Pedro Pascal. Upon arriving in Mallorca, Cage is accosted by Central Intelligence Agency agents Vivan (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz) who inform him that Javi is the head of a Spanish weapons cartel that is wanted for the kidnapping of a prominent Catalonian politician’s daughter.
Cage, now tasked with balancing his newfound friendship with Javi, fulfilling his duties as a newly-established spy and surviving an identity crisis, navigates his precarious situation with signature extravagance as the film’s action builds in an outrageous manner that supersedes the previous scene’s ridiculousness.
Though the film amounts to a self-critique of Cage’s acting career and extensive filmography, it is not the vanity project meant to make Cage reappear as a serious actor that trailers and promo superficially presented itself to be. Much of the comedy revolves around ridiculing Cage, including the appearance of a younger, more successful version of the actor who pesters the now burnt-out star with impulsive, self-indulgent behavior.
Director and writer Tom Gormican originally wrote the script and approached Cage, who turned it down multiple times before finally accepting the part. The film approaches Cage’s successes and failures from an outside perspective that allows for the humor to land effectively, since the audience is aware of Cage’s public perception and the jokes about him.
However, while Cage offers an all-out comedic performance based on his signature “nouveau shamanism” acting method, a bizarre approach to acting influenced by ancient tribal shaman tradition, Pascal approaches one of his few comedic roles with seasoned nuance. Displaying a near-childlike fascination and enthusiasm for his Hollywood hero, Pascal’s Javi delivers some of the best lines of the film, carrying the unbearable weight of being both the film’s apparent antagonist and its source of comic relief. The chemistry between Pascal and Cage would make the unfamiliar viewer believe both have been lifelong friends and partners.
Though Cage insists that this parodied version of him is far from real life, this satirization of his career slump and resurgence is unexpectedly genuine. Self-parody is a difficult approach to navigate when many actors insufficiently acknowledge their ego out of self-preservation, especially from the current Hollywood A-list scene that is seemingly allergic to self-awareness. Yet Cage’s struggles to reconnect with his teenage daughter, his renewed love for his career and his overcoming of self-destructive behavior closely resembles crises to which many viewers will be able to relate.
The authenticity of this film is offered in an accessible way that draws viewers closer rather than burdening them with a superficial attempt to appear heartfelt. The organic character interactions and self-references are iconic enough to be recognized by all generations. While the plot is at times too simple, it offers a satisfying resolution that cements the film as one of the stronger comedies in recent memory. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” may just be the magnum opus to crown Cage’s career resurgence.
Elena Martinez is a first-year in the SFS. Film Without Fluff appears online and in-print every other week.