Frankly, Nicolas Cage passionately kissing a younger version of himself on screen was not on my 2022 Bingo.
But hey, that's not even the weirdest scene in Tom Gormican's latest film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
This very 'meta' film, which has Nicolas Cage playing a fictionalised version of himself is bizarre, absurd, and at times quite silly. But throughout all this, it remains thoroughly entertaining. And even though the bar is low on that parameter, it is easily the craziest Nicolas Cage film.
The comedy-action-thriller has Nicolas Cage starring as a washed out movie star named...well, Nick Cage, who finds himself in an unwanted position of being used by the CIA to spy on a crime lord (Pedro Pascal), who happens to be his biggest fan. The two are supported by an assortment of actors with Sharon Horgan playing Nick's fictional ex-wife, Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz as CIA agents, and Neil Patrick Harris as the actor's agent Richard Fink.
We see references to Moonstruck, Gone in 60 Seconds, Face-Off, and Con Air, and also jokes about Nicolas' 'spending habits' (for the unversed, Nicolas spent a $150 million fortune and ended up in debt in real life). The film is a gold mine of Easter Eggs for pop culture aficionados. But it's much more than that. It's a smartly-written film, which infuses situational natural humour and witty dialogue. Granted, it largely depends upon the star power and charisma of its lead, but it makes the most of it.
The film hinges on the chemistry between the two leads--Nicolas and Pedro, and they do not disappoint. The two actors are in fine form and feed off each other in their scenes. Their exchanges light up the screen. I would gladly give an arm and a leg to see them in a buddy-cop action film. The movie's clever use of a younger Nicholas Cage to depict the actor's internal monologue pays off. Scenes featuring 'Nicky' are the most entertaining parts of the film.
It's not the first time a major star has played a fictionalised version of themselves on screen. John Malkovich did it in Being John Malkovich back in 1999. Shah Rukh Khan parodied himself not once but twice--in Billu and Fan. And more recently, Anil Kapoor brought his whole family with him in Netflix's AK vs AK. What makes Unbearable Weight different are two factors. First is that this film has a star not at the top of their game but one who carries a tag of a 'has-been' (albeit now observing a renaissance of sorts since his last release, the highly acclaimed Pig). To own up to that and make fun of it for millions to watch is honest and brave. And it makes for much more sincere entertainment than any of the aforementioned films.
The second distinguishing factor for the film is how the star fits in the story. In AK vs AK, Anurag Kashyap could have taken on any other actor and it would have made sense. In fact, the film was initially AK vs SK with Anurag kidnapping Mira Rajput to get back at Shahid Kapoor. Similarly, Fan could have been about Hrithik Roshan or Salman Khan and it may still have worked. But Unbearable Weight needs Nicolas Cage. He is an Oscar winner but he is also the man who played John Milton in that utterly forgettable film Drive Angry. He is someone who starred in some of the biggest hits of the 90s and 2000s but also the man who had been making straight-to-video films over the last few years. That mercurial, unpredictable character of Nicolas Cage is what makes the film entertaining.
Before a pig wandered into his life, the former Ghost Rider and Face-Off star had, in recent years, been relegated to doing titles like Running With the Devil and Vengeance: A Love Story. In some way, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and Pig have introduced him to a whole new generation of cinema lovers who have always wondered why their parents ever liked this guy. So, I could say Nicolas Cage is back. But then, I'm sure he'd say the same thing he says in the movie repeatedly: "Not that I went anywhere!"
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent had its world premiere at South by Southwest in Texas on 12 March, and released in theatres on Friday, 22 April. The film has been produced by Saturn Films and Burr! Productions and distributed globally by Lionsgate.