One of the most important moments in my cinema going career was seeing Adaptation at the Col. Glenn theater in Little Rock, AR. It was my first trip to that theater. It was my first time to leave the city I lived in with friends to see a movie. And of course, it was Adaptation. That’s a classic. Much has changed in the last 20 years. I no longer see any of those people regularly. I live in the center of Little Rock. I’m of course married , a father,and work 8-4. The corporate ownership of that theater has changed. But it’s still the main theater in the city and it made the perfect place to see the spiritual sequel to Adaptation, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a grand tribute to Nicolas Cage’s lengthy career starring Cage as a heavily fictionalized version of himself. He’s in debt, divorced from his wife (Sharon Horgan), and has no connection with his daughter (Lily Sheen, the actual daughter of actors Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale.) He can’t get work so he takes a job appearing at the birthday party of superfan Javi (Pedro Pascal). They become instantly bonded but Cage gets tapped by a pair of CIA agents (Ike Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish) to prove Javi is actually the head of a gun running cartel and bring him down. Chaos ensues.
I’m a huge fan of Cage’s run between 2002-2005, ending violently with World Trade Center and The Wicker Man., so I was inclined to love this film which feels like a spiritual twin to both Adaptation with its meta elements but also The Weather Man, Cage’s underloved film about an egotist focused on his career at the cost of his family. This is a movie that is deeply in love with Cage’s films but actually understands why they are so good. Cage is a great at character work and digging into flawed men. He gets to do that here and really tears apart what a disaster this man is. It’s just that this man happens to have his name and career.
And it’s so easy to imagine the bad version of this film: Nothing but bad memes. This definitely gives you the over the top Cage you want, but there’s more to this movie than slamming us in the ribs and reminding us of other films. This isn’t that. It’s a genuinely well made film. Director/co-writer Tom Gormican has a fantastic eye and with co-writer Kevin Etten understands that a real script is kind of nice to have here. The farce elements and the action are all first rate. And Cage goes all in as both himself and a deaged ghost of his younger self who is everything we remember about 80s Cage. He’s fantastic.
The film largely avoids being the bad version through the genius creation of Javi. Pedro Pascal is fantastic as the most adorkable fan imaginable. He’s so lovable he’s responsible for one of the film’s few weaknesses which is that Javi is so lovable you never doubt the film is going to reveal he’s an innocent. It really never lets you truly believe that he’s the big bad and the actual one is so obvious I’m not even sure it’s a twist. In fact I’ll say right now the only big complaint I have is the film telegraphs every note. But I’m not mad because we do wind up loving him so much that we’re relieved that he is what he seems.
I really had a blast with this film. This is a celebration of one of the greats and just a thoroughly entertaining movie.