The Polygon team reports from the SXSW 2022 media show with a look at the next wave of upcoming independent releases in the fields of sci-fi, horror and documentary.
Nicolas Kim Coppola, better known as Nicolas Cage, would be a difficult man to describe for anyone new to his work. He is a disturbing and well-publicized public figure, an actor who has received critical acclaim in serious drama as well as making a name for himself in cheap DTV films of dubious quality. He’s prime meme material. He probably inspired more: “Is he a great performer or a terrible one?” debate than any other actor of his generation. He’s a prolific actor who continues to both entertain the masses and live up to even the craziest little indie scenes where he drives with sheer energy and charisma.
What is special about Nicolas Cage is that he also fully understands what the audience wants – he is a reflective, audience-aware performer, playing with and against expectations with every line, every expression. Hence the idea behind it The unbearable weight of massive talent is such a slippery slope: it is A film in which Nicolas Cage plays a fictionalized version of himself (named Nick Cage, with the K) in a film about the legend of Nic Cage. With Cage himself having spent at least the last decade playing out the public’s notion of Nic Cage’s identity, is a meta-comedy about the man himself simply redundant? The answer, like everything Nicolas Cage-related, is complicated. The film works like gangbuster and is a great vehicle for Cage, but not for the reasons people might expect.
To the credit of director Tom Gormican and his co-writer Kevin Etten, The unbearable weight of massive talent‘s script is as audience conscious as Cage’s acting. The moment we first see Cage’s face, he’s sitting in his car preparing to meet Halloween kills Director David Gordon Green. Cage believes a role in Green’s latest film will turn his career around and put him back on top – not that he ever left, as he likes to point out. This is a Cage who is hungry for work, hungry for opportunities to exploit his love of acting and movies, but whose public persona follows him like a ghost, costing him the kind of role he’d rather play.
While Cage is still in the whisper-then-scream series that has built so many memes, his manic personality is portrayed as a beast who wants to be let out, rather than quite Nick Cage. This personality causes problems for Cage’s family, who are fed up with him putting his job ahead of them and forcing his love of films like Fritz Lang’s classic 1920 German Expressionist film on them The cabinet of Dr. Caligari on them. The biggest surprise over The unbearable weight of massive talent is that it’s so melancholic about the career Nic Cage might want vs. what he got. His struggle here to reclaim the movie star persona he once had Wild at heart Years spent instead working on an endless parade of small indies makes up a central part of the story.
In some respects the film is reminiscent of the Val Kilmer documentary Val, who similarly viewed a once-celebrated blockbuster star and revealed his deep sadness at being typecast as an action hero when all he wanted were more serious and challenging roles, like in the 1996s The island of Dr. Moreau. The great tragedy of The unbearable weight of massive talentSo Nic Cage is faced with the larger than life person that people are crazy about, the jokes about his bad movies and the glorification of his bigger movies while he just wants to gush about the movie Cabinet Dr. Caligari.
Of course things are not that simple. And as if Cage’s public image hadn’t left enough punch, there’s also the personification of his image in the public eye itself: Nicky Cage, a young, Wild at heart-era Cage, played by Cage himself, though humorously credited as Nicolas Kim Coppola. Nicky is brought to life through what may be intentionally horrible aging. He is the true star of the film, the ghost of the past that serves as Nick’s devil is his shoulder. He’s the inner voice that constantly questions her decisions, urging the current, more mature Cage to stop looking for respectable performances and just become a movie star again. Not that he ever left.
So it’s unfortunate that Nicky hardly appears in the film, although his memorable scenes will surely be GIFs and shared for years to come. During a question-and-answer session after the film’s premiere, the real Cage admitted that Nicky’s role convinced him to join the film, but they learned that many of Nicky’s scenes were cut, along with further tributes to Cage’s earlier work.
While the appeal of the film is watching Nicolas Cage play himself, The unbearable weight of massive talent still has a plot – although it doesn’t do the experience any favours. The story involves Cage agreeing to appear at a party for Spanish billionaire Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), who may or may not also be an arms dealer. Despite the CIA asking Cage to do spy work for them, they fall madly in love with Javi and become best friends.
It would have been easy for him The unbearable weight of massive talent go full misery about an obsessive, toxic fan, Javi is anything but. The best parts of the movie are when the script lets Cage and Pascal just hang out and talk about life like they’re in a Richard Linklater movie. The two form a real connection through movies DR Caligari to the beauty of paddington 2
It’s weird to imagine anyone other than Nicolas Cage getting the best performance in a movie about Nicolas Cage, but Pascal absolutely steals the show as Javi. He shows himself with all the charisma and charm that has made him everything game of Thrones to The Mandalorianand revs it up to 11. Even when he exhibits odd fan behavior, like a shrine to Nick Cage that includes a life-size wax statue, he’s so genuine in his admiration that it’s impossible not to root for him.
The problem with The unbearable weight of massive talent is that Gormican and Etten have their cake and want to eat it too. After the first two acts focus on Nick Cage’s public persona and how that is affecting his life and career and how he only makes big, bombastic action movies to sell the more serious stuff to the casual moviegoer, the film becomes the same Kind of DTV action film criticized it. The film tries to appeal to every single member of the Cage church, especially fans of what Gormican called “disorganized Cage” during the Q&A. It makes sense from a marketing perspective, because when Cage leans into that identity, he’s playing his more grandiose, more well-known persona. And yet it’s a shame, because the quieter, dedicated, movie-loving Cage stands out from the now, and he makes the film a worthy addition to the Nic Cage mythos.
The unbearable weight of massive talent opens in cinemas on April 22nd.