' ' Cinema Romantico: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Monday, August 08, 2022

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

The massive talent of the title of Tom Gormican’s film belongs to Nicolas Cage the Oscar-winning actor who is playing himself, or a variation of himself at least, his familiar Nic Cage nickname rechristened here as Nick Cage. Even if last year’s “Pig” only reconfirmed what many of us already knew, that Nic Cage remains a preeminent actor of his generation, he is frequently contextualized in terms of parody. Consult the gif keyboard on your phone and you will find all sorts of images of bug-eyed Cage, crazy-eyed Cage, screaming Cage. That’s how he wound up on that aspirant provocative Actors Who Are Bad at Acting listicle from Jezebel (not linking) where in response to having included Nicholas Cage (sic, which suggests it was just a massive troll job or the writer doesn’t have much authority), listmaker Clover Hope piffled “i love him he’s great at screaming.” Such predictable pablum fails to take into account how even in ostensible trash, be it “Trespass,” be it “The Trust,” Cage is still giving thoughtful performances in so much as he is still thinking about his character in any given situation and acting accordingly. That is all to say, despite the seeming absurdity, Cage generally takes each of his roles seriously, and so even as he embraces self-parody in “The Massive Weight of Unbearable Talent,” Cage takes the role seriously, which is to say he takes the role of an absentee father standing up for his fractured family seriously, meaning a seeming parody morphs into something unexpectedly heartfelt.

“The Massive Weight of Unbearable Talent” opens with Cage bombing a meeting with David Gordon Green (as himself) by choosing to audition right there on the sidewalk. He follows this up by ruining his daughter’s birthday party in drunkenly serenading her. This is not just Nick Cage dramatically bottoming out but “The Massive Weight of Unbearable Talent” slyly sending up the overriding cultural belief that Nic Cage always takes things too far, urged on by a vision of his younger self as his character from “Wild at Heart,” like if the vision of Bogey in “Play it Again, Sam” had been Fred C. Dobbs instead of Rick Blaine, or something. Disillusioned and depressed, Nick Cage decides to retire from acting, but not before agreeing to $1 million to attend the birthday party of millionaire playboy and super Nicolas Cage fan Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) in Majora. Once there, Javi ropes Nick into writing a screenplay and the CIA (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) enlists him a raggedy op to expose Javi as international drug dealer, giving Cage a chance to play two roles of a lifetime at once.

The CIA subplot in which Javi turns out to be under the thumb of his cousin (Paco León) is mostly straight-faced and in all the worst ways, evinced as mere plot filler and evoked in how Tiffany Haddish, one of the most explosive performers in modern-day movies, is almost entirely muted. You could have cast anyone in this role and it would have been virtually the same. Why enlist Haddish when you will not provide the freedom for her to express herself, an oversight spiritually at odds with the Zen of Cage. On the other hand, Pascal finds just the right notes as Javi, an almost apologetic fanboy who would rather watch movies than oversee the family business, suggesting Randall Park’s turn as Kim Jong-un in “The Interview” but in more heroically assertive terms than egotistical tragedy. 

Eventually, of course, Nick Cage’s ex-wife and daughter (Sharon Horgan and Lily Sheen, respectively) are caught up in this mess, meaning Nick will have to stand up and save the day. In one scene, he literally comes face-to-face with himself, or a shadow of himself, a wax figure of his character from “Face/Off,” clutching replicas of those famous golden guns. There is a fascinating idea buried in there which someone like Charlie Kaufman might have been able to extract and make hay with, a mixture  of Methodology and the necessity of Method actors leaving their characters on the screen, or something, that “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” never quite knows how to tap into, content with too many deep cut Cage references that stand for nothing but themselves. Cage, though, finds his own wavelength, as you might expect, giving a surprising emotional heft to otherwise routine action scenes that come across like mere scaffolding for a character epiphany than electrifying on their own. In “Bowfinger,” Eddie Murphy’s Kit Ramsey thought he was saving the world, even if he wasn’t, though we saw this from Bowfinger’s point-of-view rather than Kit’s. In a sense, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is showing us Kit Ramsey’s unlikely hero’s journey from Kit’s point-of-view but with Nick Cage subbed in for Kit, patching his family back together and preserving his self-worth rather than rescuing the globe.

Gormican renders the climactic moment of Nick embracing his daughter and wife in a low-angled, spinning, slow-motion shot (deliberately) straight out of the Michael Bay playbook, the lines not blurring between Nick Cage and Stanley Goodspeed of “The Rock,” but falling away entirely, revealing Cage as one of the few actors around who could send up his own action movie persona by embracing it whole-heartedly.

1 comment:

mercatiwriter@aol.com said...

I need to see this. Thank you.