For his most recent film, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Nicolas Cage took on the role of himself. We can safely argue that this is not a massive shift in professional direction.
For at least the past four decades, Cage has presumably been playing variations on the theme of Nic Cage. Filling out the bingo card of Cage-in performance tropes is half the fun of watching a Nic Cage movie, especially genres like Face/Off or Mandy.
These tropes include Cage’s weird, lurching emphases on random words and his loping roll of a gait, like a hound puppy whose paws are still tootinyl for its body. Outbursts of yelling so loud they make a volcano sound like a pin drop.
Memes about “Cage fury” make fun of the most extreme parts of a Cage performance. Cage dislikes being labelled “Cage rage.” He thinks it’s too easy and doesn’t demonstrate his skill. Thus, Cage’s casting in this film is shocking, especially after his performance in Pig last year, which showed his tremendous, seething, internalised depth.
To some extent, Unbearable Weight, an action comedy in which Cage is recruited by US secret services to spy on a wealthy fan and in which he also finds himself collaborating with the suspect on a dialogue-driven, character-led screenplay, could be seen as an admission of defeat to the mummification of Nic Cage. It’s also possible that by accepting and embracing the Cage-ian stereotypes, he’ll be able to put them in the past.
The film’s jumble of ideas comes from Cage, his amicably divorced wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan), and his impatient 16-year-old daughter Addy, who only find harmony in their private lives when he leaves the movie star business (Lily Mo Sheen).
Given that the Cage we meet in this new film is an inflated buffoon who claims to be a proponent of a “nouveau shamanic” approach to acting, it’s more likely that the film’s success can be attributed to its dual role as a joke at the expense of Hollywood’s egos and excesses and a love letter to those same things.
John Malkovich played himself in Spike Jonze’s Charlie Kaufman-scripted fantasy Being John Malkovich, while Jean-Claude Van Damme played a struggling action hero in Mabrouk el Mechri’s JCVD. Get Shorty, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and Unbearable Weight, which is more like JCVD, share a focus on organised crime and the film industry.
Nic Cage, fictitious, is a mess. He makes everything about himself—his daughter’s birthday, the song he wrote for her—and his career is sinking like a B-movie. A nagging voice in his head (played by a digitally de-aged Nic Cage from Wild at Heart) reminds him that he is Nic f*g Cage. Javi (Pedro Pascal), a lovely rich fan, hires him. He declines but attends Javi’s birthday celebration. Although bills are mounting, this Mallorcan house holiday pays off.
Not only does Javi expose him to the wonders of Paddington 2, but they also share a love of the German expressionist silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, which he had never seen before. However, the budding bromance is cut short when CIA agent Vivan (Tiffany Haddish) reveals that Javi is the cartel boss and suspect in the kidnapping of a young woman.
Tom Gormican, whose last film was the poorly received bro comedy That Awkward Moment, also directed and co-wrote this one.
He mixes broad physical comedy — Cage, recovering from a self-administered stunning agent and scaling the outside of Javi’s villa, is giddy fun — with cine-literate referential jokes, some of which land more successfully than others.
The screenplay is an oroboros of in-jokes; at moments, it’s so meta that it’s nearly digesting itself. However, the connection between Cage and Pascal gives the film an approachable charm that neutralizes the more vain aspects of the script. See it for the satire of the industry, but stick around for the charmingly silly buddy comedy.
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