UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT Poster | ©2022 Lionsgate

THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT Poster | ©2022 Lionsgate

Rating: R
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Paco León, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Sheen, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ike Barinholtz
Writers: Tom Gormican & Kevin Etten
Director: Tom Gormican
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: April 22, 2022

THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT, at first description, sounds like something this reviewer would take pains to avoid.

Personal confession: I do not normally enjoy fare in which famous people play fictional versions of themselves. This is mainly because usually, in these kinds of projects, whatever can go wrong tonally does. The creative team may pull punches to make the protagonist seem improbably kindly and perceptive, or else exaggerate their idiocy so much that it’s not funny, and we want to leave their company as soon as possible. The situations can also get so unlikely that we wonder why they’re just not telling a fictional story in the first place. And, often, the famous person and the filmmakers may be working from a point of view that nobody else shares about that person.

However, with THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT, star Nicolas Cage, director/co-writer Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten weave around all these potential disasters like Olympic skiers navigating a speed obstacle course. It’s entertaining to behold, as well as impressive.

The Nic Cage in THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT is having multiple crises at once. His career isn’t where he wants it to be, he needs money, and he’s rapidly alienating his sixteen-year-old daughter Addy (Lily Sheen), who feels correctly that her dad needs to be the center of attention at all times.

So, when an offer comes in to attend the birthday party of a rich Spanish fan, Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), Cage agrees. He shows up at Javi’s seaside mansion, only to find himself totally disarmed by his host’s humble adoration, warmth – and screenwriting acuity.

Bonding ensues, only to be interrupted by the CIA, as represented by Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz). They inform Cage that Javi is a ruthless drug dealer. Cage is their only hope of infiltrating Javi’s organization. What’s an actor in crisis to do?

Part of the reason that THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT succeeds where similar efforts have failed is Cage’s persona. He knows he can be over-the-top, and is perfectly able to send himself up without doing anything that feels outside of the norms he’s set up publicly. Then again, he and the movie never do anything repulsive or boring; if we’ve been comfortable watching Nicolas Cage movies before, we’re still comfortable here. It’s all somehow proportionate to its frame of reference.

Another part, which the movie gets meta about, is that there is a propulsive plot. It’s not just two guys sitting around discussing life and art. Since the dialogue about this sounds like real human conversation, again, it’s gently entertaining and doesn’t pat itself too hard on the back for self-awareness.

Then there’s the movie’s secret weapon, which is Pascal. It’s hard to think of a moment since Justin Long yelped “I knew it!” in GALAXY QUEST when unabashed fandom has been presented so winningly. Pascal is sweet and deferential without being obsequious or embarrassing. He makes Javi what we’d expect to see in the dictionary next to the word “thrilled” when interacting with Cage. The buddy chemistry between them is charming.

Sheen is fine as Cage’s daughter, and Sharon Horgan seems like a full, reasonable human as his ex-wife (in reality, Cage is two years into a new marriage, and has two sons).

There are still a few moments that try too hard, but laughs arrive consistently. More than that, we’re having a good time. The people involved in creating THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT actually like showbiz and storytelling and actors, and they put the sentiment across without being mushy, pushy or cynical. It’s not only bearable, it’s genuinely fun.

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