The unbearable weight of massive talent can reach the highest possible concentration of Nicolas Cage in a medium without advanced scientific instruments. It’s a film about Nic Cage (played by Nic Cage) who teams up with a possible fanatic of Nic Cage to make a film about Nic Cage (played by Nic Cage playing Nic Cage) while occasionally making a second, imaginary, yells at and/or kisses Nic Cage (played by Nic Cage going through a creepy de-aging filter). It includes clips from several previous Nic Cage films as well as a Nic Cage memorabilia room which includes a Nic Cage statue and this sequin pillow with Nic Cage on it. Nic Cage attended the film’s premiere at SXSW. So did at least one person holding a paper cutout of Nic Cage’s face.
Nic Cage is a cultural meme, but he’s also an actor known for making great movies, excellent and otherwise at least terrible movies Interesting dreadful. and Massive talent – directed by Tom Gormican – doesn’t fit into either category. The film is theoretically a self-conscious satire on fandom, Hollywood and Cage’s own legendary status, with a heavily fictionalized version of the star. In reality, it’s often a fun but aimless action-comedy that diagnoses rather than fixes its own narrative problems.
To offer a slightly more detailed version of the summary above, Massive talent is about a version of Nic Cage who is professionally successful but personally a mess. He’s broke, he’s divorced, he’s lost the role of his life and he’s concerned that his teenage daughter Addy (Lily Sheen) doesn’t like 1920s German Expressionist cinema. (In reality, Cage is currently married and has a son named after Superman.) He is cowed over his life choices by “Nicky,” a creepy Valley version of himself who exemplifies all of Cage’s famously whimsical excesses, especially his penchant for screaming a lot.
At the end of his rope, Cage is offered $1 million to visit the remote Spanish estate of a wealthy superfan and amateur screenwriter named Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal). Then a CIA agent (Tiffany Haddish) intercepts him and says his new benefactor is a gangster who kidnapped a politician’s daughter. She enlists Cage to find the girl – who is also a Nic Cage fan – declaring that she wants to do a movie with Javi. The problem is that Cage really turns out how the man, and despite the power of what he believes to be his “new shamanic” thespian instincts, he’s not a particularly amazing spy.
I had the benefit of watching Massive talent at a theater filled with downright feral Cage supporters who gave him a standing ovation – when the actor emerged in a plaid suit, a female audience member threw back her head and screamed like a mountain lion. Even without that atmosphere, the film’s leading duo could probably sell the film on its chemistry alone. Pascal cranks his portrayal of a cute but potentially murderous character to Cage-worthy intensity. Cage oscillates between a confused straight male and an intense meme self, a contrast that feels more natural than it sounds. The best scenes depend heavily on Pascal and Cage’s sense of comic timing and their ability to deliver dialogue that’s genre-competent without sounding overbearingly Whedonesque.
Unfortunately, the overall experience remains fairly scattered. There’s a very, very gentle satire on Hollywood and a superficial series of scenes where Cage tries his hand at espionage. There’s a broad “cynical egoist gets his mojo back” plot as Cage learns to reconnect with his daughter and his craft through Javi. There is an ongoing meta comment on Massive talent own plot through jokes about Cage and Javi’s script, including a suggestion that the spy vehicle is just a hook to attract the audience. But much of it seems like a distraction from watching Cage and Pascal hang out.
Best – and I mean best seriously because it is a reasonable and pleasant one right to exist – Massive talent is a real person fanfiction. It reunites Cage with Pascal’s original character for many light-hearted scenes in which they take acid, discuss movie ideas, jump off scenic cliffs, and wrap up in a nod to an extreme 2021 online joke paddington 2 is very good.
But like many fan fictions, the film depends on you already having a strong bond with its protagonist. Massive talent Cage’s character doesn’t develop much beyond the limits of his immediate physical capabilities. His ex-wife and daughter don’t get beyond generic placeholders for a family relationship, and the film glosses over what defines him as an actor and seems to expect you’ll emerge with a strong understanding of Cage’s prolific career and her weird mix from highbrow and lowbrow roles.
Massive talent also scrupulously avoids some of the most distinctive aspects of Cage fandom, which grows as much out of the performative cultural Hivemind dynamic as it does out of the classic Hollywood star. Characters react to the fictional Cage like any well-known action star with a varied career, not someone who is loved in part for taking on many roles in surreally horrifying films and stirring up a heated public debate about whether he’s fundamentally good or bad. There’s none of the quasi-ironic hyper-fixation that transforms him from persona to abstract icon through a phenomenon like pasting off-kilter pictures of Nic Cage in your house.
Maybe it’s because of that kind of appreciation, though not necessarily mean, is not entirely free. A big part of meme culture is obsessing over things you’re a little disdainful of and separating art from its producers as real people. And while Massive talent maybe poke fun at Cage occasionally, it’s mostly interested in just swinging with him.