In case you hadn’t heard, Nicolas Cage is back. Cage began a return to the top with 2021’s Pig, but The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent confirms his reascent.
This film sees Cage, playing a fictionalized version of himself, desperate for what he refers to as “the role of a lifetime”. Not a lot seems to be working for Cage in the movie’s present; his relationship with his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan, Game Night) is on the rocks, and their daughter Addy, played by relative newcomer Lily Sheen, barely speaks to him. Adding to the pile of misery is the 600,000 dollar bill Cage has racked up at the hotel he is living out of. With all of this weighing Cage down, he begrudgingly agrees to a deal presented to him by his agent Richard (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother); fly to Majorca and hangout with an eccentric billionaire, Javi (Pedro Pascal, Game of Thrones) for one million dollars.
Unbearable Weight is many things; funny, nostalgic, action-packed, but the word most associated with it is meta. And how could a movie featuring Nicolas Cage playing a fictionalized version of himself not be? There have been meta films before this one and there will be more in the future, but what makes Unbearable Weight stand out is the execution and presentation of its version of reality. The film serves as almost an homage to the wide variety of films Cage has made throughout his distinguished career. It is as if the filmmakers are saying, this is a film for anyone who views cinema with the love and passion its star does. The meta goes right down to the character “Nicky”, a voice in Cage’s head, who looks and sounds exactly like Cage did during a famous promotional interview he did for his 1990 film Wild at Heart. Nicky’s purpose is to steer Cage away from a reconciliation with his family and towards his true calling: to be a movie star.
At its core, this movie is a buddy comedy. Pascal’s Javi is worthy of every minute he shares with Cage. Javi is sweet – and not remotely creepy – in his fanboy adulation of Cage. Even as he shows him a secret room with a shrine dedicated to his entire career, Javi is always welcome on screen. This is likely due to the fact that Javi’s bond with Cage is forged by his love of film. As the two set out to write their own script, Javi can tell when Cage is being less than truthful with him when his ideas for their film don’t align with Javi’s vision. He has no idea that Cage was persuaded to stick around by a couple of CIA agents, played hilariously by comedy veterans Tiffany Haddish (Night School) and Ike Barinholtz (Blockers), to help them investigate Javi and the shady elements of his business.
Ultimately, this is Cage’s film. The role of a lifetime he’s been searching for. Unbearable Weight is ambitious. It weaves seamlessly between themes and homages to Cage’s vast assortment of films. It mixes between being a character study and an action-comedy. Cage is what holds it all together though. His character feels completely organic yet simultaneously authentic to where Cage is in his life and career. Which is why I feel justified in saying that Nicolas Cage is, indeed, back.
Not that he ever left us.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent was released in theaters on April 22.