I’ve been writing for Redbox since 2008. In that time, the name and URL of this movie blog have changed, the team members I work with have changed—even the services Redbox offers have changed. And clearly, the world we live in has drastically changed. But there’s one thing that’s remained consistent over the years: the awesomeness of Nicolas Cage (and his hair). I have written about my love for Cage and his plethora of ‘dos again and again since I took this gig, so no one was more excited than me for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent—a movie that celebrates the actor’s long, strange trip of a career under the guise of a buddy comedy turned action-thriller.
No stranger to self-referential fun-poking, as evidenced by one of my favorite SNL Weekend Update segments ever—Cage stars as a partially fictionalized version of himself, Nick Cage, who’s at a crossroads in both his life and decades-long Hollywood career. His ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) and daughter (Lily Sheen, who looked weirdly familiar to me until I realized she’s Kate Beckinsale’s daughter) are distant and frustrated thanks to Nick’s self-centeredness and obsession with his flailing career. A ‘90s-era version of himself he calls “Nicky” (played by a digitally de-aged Cage) visits in times of stress with tough-love attempts at motivating the actor out of his slump. Clearly, Nick is struggling. Eventually, after making a fool out of himself on his daughter’s birthday and learning he’s seriously in debt, he agrees to appear at an olive-oil tycoon’s party in Majorca, Spain, for $1 million.
Little does Nick know that this billionaire businessman, Javi (Pedro Pascal), is a Cage superfan—having seen (and in some cases, memorized) all of his movies, having built something of an altar to the actor in his mansion, and having written a movie he hopes Cage will star in. Let me tell you, Pascal is so amazing in this role. After remaining helmeted for 95% of The Mandalorian’s two seasons to date, Pascal went all out with the facial expressions in TUWoMT, and he is a hoot. Seriously, he almost steals the movie from Cage, which is no small feat.
Since Javi doesn’t hide his admiration of the ego-bruised Nick, and since Javi comes off as a genuinely nice guy, Nick soon finds himself having a great time at the event at which he’d begrudgingly agreed to appear. However, two CIA operatives (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz—whose talents are both squandered in these bit roles) soon spoil it all by informing Cage that Javi is really an evil drug lord … and demanding Cage spy on Javi for them.
Things start to get crazy from that point forward, with several movie-genre tropes discussed and lamented by Nick and Javi as they share ideas for Javi’s screenplay, while those same tropes play out in TUWoMT simultaneously. I would’ve preferred more Nick/Javi bonding moments (both the hilarious ones and the sweet ones) and less generic action-movie scenes, even though I appreciate what director Tom Gormican and his co-writer Kevin Etten were trying to do. I mean, it’s not like you can make a film centered around Cage’s career and NOT have gratuitous action scenes. But they were the weakest parts of the movie by far.
Conversely, the best parts were when Cage and/or Javi riffed about the star’s past performances. For that reason, I wish I’d refreshed my memory of Cage’s greatest hits before seeing TUWoMT, because there are so many callbacks to his many, many movies that I know a lot went over my head and I didn’t get to fully appreciate all the inside jokes.
But perhaps that’s precisely the reaction Gormican and Etten were going for. They wouldn’t have made a movie like this unless they were Javi-esque Cage fanboys themselves. Maybe they wanted to remind the rest of us of the genius that is Nicolas Cage and motivate us to revisit his truly remarkable filmography. I intend to do just that, just as I will also dive into fellow Chicago film critic Keith Phipps’ new book “Age of Cage: Four Decades of Hollywood through One Singular Career.”
I’m so glad that Cage is finally getting the spotlight he so richly deserves. Now, who’s going to make a movie and write a book solely dedicated to his hair?
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