The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
Starring Nicholas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Sharon Horgan, Neil Patrick Harris, Demi Moore, David Gordon Green
This is a curious mixing up of reality and fantasy, though mostly fantasy. It seems that writer (with Kevin Etten) and director Tom Gormican intended to make a spoof of Nicholas Cage and his movies by weaving in and out of both in a multi-layered piece that oftentimes uncannily mirrors Cage’s own life and career. To enmesh the plot further, Cage’s double named Nicholas Kim Coppola (the actor’s given name before he changed it) appears periodically urging him to be true to himself as an actor. Confusing? It’s meant to be.
When the movie opens (after a quick scene of a kidnapping unexplained), Nicholas Cage the character is in a career slump, which he does not want to acknowledge. Neil Patrick Harris playing his agent Richard Fink tries to get him any job he can, even those beneath him. But the offer that most intrigues him is the one in which he will go to a super fan’s birthday party for which he’ll earn $1 million. This makes Cage vulnerable to a major scam and provide a perfect opportunity for an action film, which the character Cage is eager/desperate for.
In the beginning, the film portrays Cage the actor as someone so self-involved, he cannot celebrate his teenage daughter on her birthday without directing the guests’ attention to himself. This part of the movie is hard to watch because he is so obnoxious. But it transitions to Javi Gutierez’s (Pascal) villa in Mallorca where Cage will be caught up in his host’s luxurious living and an intrigue that involves the CIA (Haddish).
Bright and knowledgeable people are likely to enjoy thoroughly the references to movies (highlighted are Cage’s Guarding Tess, Moonstruck, and others) and filmmaking (Cage and Gutierez wanting to make “a character-driven adult drama”, stealing lines, going in and out of character). The audience I was with seemed to enjoy most the usual kinds of goofiness that many people seem to love, like pratfalls, a car backed up so fast it crashes into another car, and hair-raising car chases. So, in these senses, the film will appeal to a broad span of viewers.
I admire the actor Nicholas Cage for agreeing to support a movie that portrays him with many of his flaws…and he acts in it, no less. His genuineness and willingness to allow himself to be seen in such a light is unusual and reflective of his decision to change his name from Coppola to Cage early on in his career and fund numerous charitable projects through the years.
I also admire the skill, cleverness, and humor that Tm Gormican and Kevin Etten brought to bear on such a complex, multi-layered work that is meant essentially as entertainment. But it might be more than that in both the filmmaking world and in psychoanalytic efforts to understand the individual in the contexts of origin, development, and achievements.
Nicholas Cage as himself is of course the penultimate of any acting career, and he does it so easily. Pedro Pascal is a talented actor in many different kinds of roles, and he pulls off the transitions required here. Tiffany Haddish as a CIA agent is not so convincing, but her role is meant to be comical more than real, and for that she does a good job.
Nicolas Cage? See him here in all his facets, both real and imagined.