The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, or Massive Talent as the advertisements now call it, and what I will be calling it throughout this review because The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is an obnoxiously long title, is a movie that wants to be a love letter to Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage. The Oscar-winning actor was at one time of the biggest movie stars in the world, starring in blockbuster box office hits and being an awards favorite.
But throughout the last decade or so, Cage saw his star diminish. After a series of financial and critical bombs, Cage soon became the face of straight-to-VOD movies. Movies with crummy movie posters that only seem to exist at your local Redbox and that star Cage alongside other once-shining stars like Guy Pierce and John Cusack. And despite Cage giving good voice performances in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Croods and becoming a midnight movie icon with movies like Mom and Dad and Mandy, people still tag Cage as an over-the-top actor in movies that nobody knows exist.
Massive Talent director Tom Gormican wants to change that. He wants us to remember how big of a movie star Nicolas Cage still is, how talented he still is, and how awesome of a human being he still is. It is evident watching Massive Talent that Gormican is a lover of all things Cage and wanted to make a movie dedicated to the legendary actor. But Gormican runs into some issues, some of them with the film itself, some with the idea around the film.
Let’s start with the film itself. In Massive Talent, Nicolas Cage, or this version of Nicolas Cage, finds himself in a career rut. He can’t get a part to save his life, he’s broke, and he has a rough relationship with his family. His agent (Neil Patrick Harris) says that he has a job offer for $1 million to attend the birthday party of a huge fan. Desperate for the money, he agrees and heads to an island owned by billionaire Javi (Pedro Pascal).
While on the island, Cage and Javi bond over movies, both Cage’s filmography and movies like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Paddington 2. Things get wild quickly when two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) take Cage and tell him that Javi is suspected of dealing arms and kidnapping the daughter of a political leader. This shocks Cage, as he and Javi have been slowly becoming close friends. The CIA asks Cage to go undercover and get information about Javi, which puts Cage’s friendship with Javi in jeopardy and his own life in danger.
The CIA part of the plot is completely unnecessary and takes away from what works in the film. Watching Cage and Javi’s friendship grow is the best aspect of the film, especially when Javi begins to show just how much he loves Cage’s work. Javi isn’t a stalker obsessive, he’s just a huge, passionate fan who has a lot of money. He has a bunker full of Cage memorabilia, including the golden guns from Face/Off, which Cage offers to buy off him, despite having little to no money. I wish the movie focused solely on this aspect of the film. Cage and Pascal are an excellent duo together and their charisma and chemistry would have been more than enough to make Massive Talent entertaining, sweet, and fun.
My biggest issue with the film doesn’t have to do with the plot, but more about the creation of the movie. When thinking about Nicolas Cage, even when he was at his peak in the mid-90s, I would say he was more of a polarizing movie star than a beloved one. Cage has his fans, myself being one, but there are also people who don’t like Cage and don’t like Cage movies. He has never been as loved as someone like Denzel Washington, who has been universally loved his entire career. So a movie like Massive Talent really only appeals to Cage’s fans. I can’t imagine someone who is not a fan of Cage would be interested in seeing a movie where Nicolas Cage plays Nicolas Cage.
So as a Cage fan, again, I am one, we know that Cage hasn’t lost any of his talents as an actor. We’ve seen him become one of the more interesting actors working today, as his film choices are unique and he never phones it in. Just last year, Cage gave one of the very best performances of his career in Michael Sarnoski’s Pig, in a performance that showcased Cage’s movie stardom, as well as how he can own the screen. So then it confuses that if this is a Nicolas Cage movie about how Nicolas Cage is still a great actor and has been for decades and most of the people who will see this movie are Nicolas Cage fans who already know he is still a great actor, what is the actual point of the movie? I hate asking that question about any movie, but it is all I could think about while watching this film.
For what Massive Talent is, it’s pretty entertaining. I saw it at its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival at a sold-out screening of over 1,200 people. The theater had a raucous time. While everyone else was having a blast, I was sitting there wondering what the point of it all was.
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