The unbearable weight of massive talent
If you’ve ever wanted a moment that defined stardom, then Nicolas Cage entering Austin’s Paramount Theater for the world premiere of his meta-comedy, The unbearable weight of massive talent.
The star of A score to settle, 211and Pay the Ghost had the kind of uncontrollable, screaming, enthusiastic amazement and applause that seems like a thing of the past.
Why name these films, rather than greater box office hits like The rock Where national treasureor critically acclaimed work like The heart that is in Desert, Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas, Pork Where Joor even intriguing oddities such as lord of war? Because those are just as important to Cage’s career as those more well-known films. They are the ones who paid the bills, and they are the ones Nicolas Cage is belittled by young Nicky Cage. Both roles are played by…Nicolas Cage in a not always flattering self-portrait with the flamboyant young artist and performer exhausted, divorced, broke, and oscillating between the parts that make money and the parts that will make it actor again.
It’s financial desperation that leads him to agree to take $1 million to spend a weekend with Nicolas Cage’s ultimate superfan, Javi Gutierrez (a suitably daffy Pedro Pascal). He’s exactly the kind of Cage-oholic who would have been oohing and aahing at Paramount, even if the source of that million dollars isn’t entirely legitimate, as Cage explains by the FBI.
The screenplay by director Tom Gormican (creator of the short-lived supernatural comedy Adam Scott/Craig Robinson Phantom) undoubtedly shows the fingerprints of its co-writer, Kevin Etten, and his tenure on formatting TV shows like Scrubs and Kevin can fuck himself. There’s a playfulness, even dizzying silliness, with Nic and Javi fooling around, high as kites, like over-excited schoolchildren on a shared sugar rush. These moments are fun, but they’re also part of a subtle tragedy that affects Cage and every decision he makes – creative, personal, professional.
Cage is far from the first actor to play himself, but there’s a self-criticism at play that would make a fitting double bill with Jean Claude Van Damme’s self-punishment in JCVD. Yet, there is undoubtedly a major difference between the two projects. JCVD was a way for the Muscles of Brussels to show that he was more than a two-dimensional action hero. His defining scene is a monologue in which the star literally levitates out of the story to make observations, and it’s a way for him to prove he can be more than this guy doing the splits. We already know what Cage is capable of, all of its extremities and various forms. Here, another monologue delivery is a vital turning point, but it’s when Cage blows an impromptu audition by being too Cage.
It’s Cage trying to come to terms with all those messy decisions he’s made, trying to make amends while accepting and celebrating who he is. Even when the film becomes sporadically formulaic and sinks into a more singular action-comedy groove, it’s its own commentary, on the gap between what Cage wants and what audiences want, and his preparation to give them what they want. In his last moments, The unbearable weight of massive talent gives Cage a glimpse of what he really wants. Whether you see this as tragedy or hope depends on which Nic Cage you want to see.
Headliners, World Premiere