Why are so many of us obsessed with this guy? Is it because Nicolas Cage is an Oscar Winner who wound up doing films where he punches women dressed in bear suits? Nicolas Cage is funny because he’s quirky. His career trajectory is similar to Christopher Walken’s, where the man becomes a meme, and we forget to see the artist underneath. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent lets us see a more believable Nicolas Cage. One who seems to be a flawed but an overall well-tempered man, haunted by the roles that make him appear like a jester.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a very meta buddy comedy movie. In the film, Mr. Cage plays himself as he’s escorted to a wealthy owner’s mansion for his birthday party. The birthday boy, Javi Gutierrez (Pablo Pascal), quickly become B.F.F.s with Nick. Sadly, the bromance is jeopardized when the C.I.A. forces Mr. Cage to spy on his new pal Javi. A gig Mr. Cage is reluctant to do.
Nicolas Cage has gone meta before in Adaptation, where he plays Charlie Kaufman plus his fictional brother. Then came all the memes of the Cage Rage. As the internets love for Cage blossomed, Nick took full advantage by hosting Netflix’s The History of Swear Words. TUWOMT is the final form of Cage in the multiverse, which can put to rest all of the Nick Cage jokes for hopefully a while.
Although the memes may have overstayed their welcome, TUWOMT stays the course long enough not to bore me with my final trip down Cage lane. The humor is devious yet filled with heart. You can be unaware of who Nicolas Cage is (if you live under a rock) but still gain a chuckle from Nicolas Cage, the character, not the actor. Although the jokes are leaned heavily toward Cage’s fanbase, they don’t pander to his crowd. There are some deep cuts only the cool kids will get while the rest search the references on Google after the movie ends. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent paints a rosier portrait of Mr. Cage, contrary to Nicolas’ opinion of his characterization in Tom Gormican’s flick.
We’re used to seeing Nicolas Cage play a character who sounds bored or stark raving mad. Here, Nick is somewhere in between here. Outwardly Nick’s a private, reserved person. Inwardly Nick’s alter ego, for fun, let’s call him Nick Fury, haunts Nicolas like a bad caricature of a better man. Fury has the appearance of Cage from one of his throwback films with a mid-90s split blond haircut and greaser leather jacket. Nick Fury proclaims, as in the trailer, “I’m Nicolas (prolonged F word) Cage!” playing a ghost from the real man’s past. Somewhere along the way, the jokes don’t feel so funny to Nicolas, who wants to be respected as an artist instead of mocked. With Javi’s relationship, Nick begins to learn to rediscover himself.
Javi Gutierrez sports many similarities to Pablo Escobar, where the two men are drug kingpins. The way Pablo Pascal plays Javi has a drug pusher vibe where his charm can be misleading. The actor doing the heaviest lifting is Mr. Pascal since he must don an entirely different role from his typical self. I’ve not seen Narcos (yet), so perhaps he’s copying and pasting his character from that here? Even so, it’s effective because you don’t want to dislike Javi. He’s written as a good-hearted man who can be as sweet as Paddington despite how he gained his wealth. Except for Pete Davidson and Tiffany Hadish’s goofball C.I.A. character antics, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent invests its laughs with fleshed-out human beings instead of hollow shells of people.
When Will Ferrel is doing Eurovision, we see the same character from Talladega Nights. The humor’s self-awareness chokes on its recurring gag. Nicolas Cage playing himself, or a twin of himself, or talking about The History of Swear Words because of a compilation video of himself cursing up a storm is well wrapped with a movie that humorously and humanly looks at Nicolas Cage. Now, I’d like to see Nick do more films like Pig or Mandy. My thoughts on Reimsfeld are intrigued, but I worry it might be the bullet that kills the meme hoarse before its corpse gets beaten with a stick.
You can catch The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent in theaters This Friday