Join the discussion on

" If there’s an empty space just say a line....Even if it’s from another show "
— Fred Willard, Waiting for Guffman

MRQE Top Critic

The Conspirator

The Conspirator is an extremely well-crafted court drama. —Matt Anderson (review...)

Wright's Conspirator defended by McAvoy

Sponsored links

If more movies were this purely entertaining, life would be sooo fuhrrrrriiiccckkkking awesome!

The Talented Mr. Cage

Nicolas Cage is Nick Cage
Nicolas Cage is Nick Cage

Nicolas Cage — nephew of legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola — has over the years (okay, decades) become a legend himself. Both on and off the screen.

There’s the weird stuff, like the plot in a New Orleans graveyard. The marriages, some of them more eyebrow-raising than others. The financial straits. The son named Kal-El. But there’s also one movie role after another in which Nicolas Cage delivers lines like no other actor can. He’s up there — way up there — with the likes of Walken and Pacino.

Some of those lines stick in the psyche so many years after they first blared out from Dolby Surround speakers. The delivery. The intonation. The facial expressions. Like this one from Michael Bay’s The Rock, “How in the name of Zeus’ butthole did you get out of your cell?!” In that one, Cage stood toe-to-toe with another legend, Sean Connery.

Now, after appearing in more than 100 movies, it can be said Nicolas Cage is finally starring in a role no one else on Earth could possibly tackle, a role he was truly born to play: Nick Cage.

Simply put, any high concept movie like this has to revolve around a person who rates as a true cultural icon and Cage fits the bill perfectly. This is self-effacing image deconstruction at its finest, wrangling a wonderful blend of Cage’s life as movie star, news fodder and maybe a kernel of actual truth.

The Lightness of Being

As the movie opens, the hero of the piece, master thespian Nick Cage, graced with the shamanic ability to read people, is on the cusp of landing a role that’ll resuscitate his floundering career and get him out of debt, including a substantial tab at the Sunset Tower.

Alas, the blows come fast and furious for our hero. The director decides to take the character in a “different direction.” Nick struggles in his relationship with his daughter and ex-wife. Like any of us would, he starts to ponder all of his life choices and that timeless distinction between career and work. All of us, after all, are Nick Cage and Nick Cage is us. Things are looking glum; he’s ready to retire. But even his agent is too busy to take notes recording Nick’s heartfelt statement about moving away from the silver screen and the centuries-old craft of storytelling and mythology making.

Then fate enters the picture. Nick takes on a completely different assignment to entertain a wealthy entrepreneur (well, gun runner) in Mallorca, Spain. It’s a sweet deal, it pays a million bucks. And the guy’s a huuuuge fan of Nicolas Cage.

What could possibly go wrong? I mean, besides everything under the sun?

The Deceptive Difficulty of Comedy

As silly as the premise sounds, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a remarkably smart comedy. It’s been far too long since a movie’s had this many delightful laugh-out-loud moments. The funny business runs the gamut of comedic stylings. There’s the snappy dialogue, a dash of slapstick, plenty of the absurdist. Some sight gags. But all of that revolves around the characters, and that is the bedrock of the very best of comedy.

Pedro Pascal is Javi
Pedro Pascal is Javi

As for Nicolas Cage, he’s a double threat. Or would that be a triple threat in this case? He plays himself, but both his contemporary self and his younger self, the one from movies like Wild at Heart, Rumblefish and Valley Girl. The setup offers some great moments of a classic philosophical touchstone: a person battling their own inner demons.

But when it’s Cage-on-Cage sparring, it’s taken to a whole new level. When younger Cage drops an “F” bomb for the ages, it’s the very loud roar of self-assertion this troubled, damaged world needs right now. Really, really badly.

Wait. There’s more.

There’s Pedro Pascal. The Mandalorian himself plays Nick’s biggest fan, Javi, and the two become an unlikely, but highly entertaining pair. This is a bromance like no other. The two bond over movies, including their mutual respect for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. They also have great taste in snappy shoes.

The Bright Side of Life

As the two forge their friendship and begin to piece together a touching, character-driven drama as counterprogramming to Star Wars and Marvel (did Nick forget his very own Ghost Rider movies?), Nick is put face-to-face with very real danger involving a plot to undermine an election in Catalonia. (In this post-Brexit, post-Trump world, election stories are all the rage these days, figuring into other recent releases including The Secrets of Dumbledore and The Batman.)

With the CIA and FBI recruiting Nick and his massive talent to “read people,” the end game is a face off with Javi, of sorts, between the two whose fandom is mutual. Is Javi really a bad guy? Part of the joy of this is how well his character is defined; he could go either way and there are just enough reasons for both of them to not trust each other.

A lot of movies about movies veer into the smug side, but The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has a very healthy sense of itself. Of course, there are loads of references to the Nicolas Cage film canon, including Guarding Tess, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Croods: A New Age. It’s a diverse catalog if ever there was one.

What’ll be great to hear one of these days is the whole story behind the story. Namely, how writer/director Tom Gormican, with only one other feature film to his directing credit, was able to pull off this massive trick of generous humor. While Massive Talent celebrates all things Nicolas Cage in a highly fanciful (and nearly 100% fictional) fantasy, it’s also interesting to consider where Gormican, along with co-writer Kevin Etten, will go next. This very well might be the beginning of other massive talents.