Updated: Apr 24
"Not that I went anywhere," is a phrase Nicolas Cage repeats often in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a new comedy where he plays himself. Directed by Tom Gormican, the film recognizes that Cage is an iconic movie star who has had his ups and downs over the years. One could argue he is having a moment right now but that repeated phrase reminds us that Cage has been making movies for decades.
There is a side to Cage that is all tics and exaggerations but he is a diverse and talented actor capable of subtly. Massive Talent sees him going as broad as possible, trying to please the casual and the die-hard fan of the actor. The meta-comedy lets Cage gently poke fun at his quirks and commitment to acting. When the film opens, Cage is denied a part in David Gordon Green's new film, his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) calls him out for being a bad father and his daughter Addy (Lily Sheen) thinks he is too self-obsessed to care about her.
Cage reluctantly accepts a million dollars to entertain a rich Spanish businessman for his birthday. Javi is a superfan and he is played by Pedro Pascal in a wonderfully over-the-top manner. Pascal knows who he is sharing scenes with and goes full Cage against Cage here. The results are mixed but the chemistry between these two actors is real fun. Shootouts, kidnapping, spy plots, and more get crammed into a story that would have been best served up as simply a buddy comedy. Writers Kevin Etten and director Gormican seem to have come up with a couple of genuinely funny ideas and then strung a tired and predictable story to them in order to flesh out a full film. When the film relaxes and just lets these two actors interact, it is a blast. It is a shame that is only about a third of the film.
The resulting film is thin, both in its lampooning of Cage and as an action film. It wants to be both things plus a whole lot more and the lack of focus means the film has many tonal shifts. Cage shines as he plays against what people think of him and who he thinks he is. This is manifested by having him talk to a younger version of himself who deprecates him. Pascal is the better counter and the movie peaks during a manic acid trip where the two men bond. Pascal matches Cage's intensity and for about 20 minutes, the film is hilarious.
However, the need for a CIA plotline, a father redemption story, and countless other B-plots weigh the fun down. There is enough in those buddy comedy moments to recommend the film, especially if you love Nicolas Cage. The action movie this wants to be is too dull and it isn't helped by some truly poor direction of the action.
The main issue of Massive Talent, aside from its wild tonal shifts and rote plot lines, is that it wants to position itself as a career booster for Cage. Cage is just coming off one of his very best performances in Pig, he doesn't need a film clamoring for his comeback. He truly never "went anywhere."