Nicolas Cage has been appearing in movies for 40 years. His first role where he was credited as Nicolas Coppola was in the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High. He only had a few lines as well as appearing in the background or crowd scenes at times. He’s only known as Brad’s Bud. He was 17 at the time of filming and according to to California laws for child actors, he couldn’t work past a certain hour. This limited his time on set and screentime. Even having Francis Ford Coppola as an uncle wasn’t enough to move past some laws.
Over the years, he’s also been a member of the Arquette Family and the Presley Family. His personal life and his outrageous lifestyle, which included buying a dinosaur skull and a Superman comic valued at about $150,000. He’s a Superman fan and almost was before a disastrous movie production that should make the Batgirl movie pale in comparison. He even named his own son, Kalel, after Superman’s Krypton name.
But there’s been highs and lows over the years, success in movies early on like Raising Arizona and Moonstruck, followed by a career slump where he was making movies overseas and low-budget movies like Red Rock West, which was a surprise sleeper hit with critics and audiences. He won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas and went on the A-list finishing out the 1990s and the 20th Century as an in-demand actor.
Then, the 2000s happened and despite some movies like National Treasure and Adaptation., which he got his second Oscar nomination, his acting style had become synonymous witth overacting. In fact, it’s not even accurate to call overacting but his own form of acting that also so amateurish it’s brilliant. In Vampire’s Kiss, he begins to say the English alphabet in a cheesy foreign accent before yelling like he’s a cheerleader trying to pump the crowd up. By the 2010s, most of his work was straight-to-DVD or on-demand.
From Kick-Ass in 2010 to the critically acclaimed and very well-made Pig in 2021, Cage appeared in 44 movie roles. There was reports that Cage made a lot of these movies to help pay off the massive debt he owed to the IRS. His roles in about four dozens of movies over a dozen years brings up a interesting point in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, where Cage plays a fictional version of himself. Cage questioned why people are upset of all the movies he made in a decade as he is an actor and an actor’s job is to act in movies.
I like how actors are often considered to be hacks if they make more than two or three movies a year. Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing how writers are not expected to publish a book every year, but every three or four years. Sometimes the longer period the better. And the same is for musicians or film directors. If a musician or a band releases an album every year, they’re not considered serious. Look how Quentin Tarantino made a big deal of spending six years between Jackie Brown and the first Kill Bill movie.
But getting back to Massive Talent, I usually don’t like it when actors play fictionalized versions of themselves in movies unless they are used very sparingly. About 30 years ago, The Larry Sanders Show was about a fake late-night TV show with real actors and celebrities appearing, but after the first season, the gag that the celebrities were often portrayed differently from their public image got old. This might have seemed novel for the first season, but by the final episode where Jim Carrey rags on Sanders to his face and gives him the finger during a commercial break, it was overdone. I hated This is the End which used this same tactic. There’s nothing funny about seeing Michael Cera as a jerk. This only seems to appease celebrities themselves as an in-joke.
But Cage is one of those actors who’s often been so outrageous, it seems appropriate he would play a fictional version of himself. But what is a fictional version of Cage? Does such a thing even exist? He seems to be one of these actors who’s often competiting with himself. I mention that, because in this movie, he often talks to a younger version of himself, named Nicky who represents the more successful Cage. In Massive Talent, the movie begins with Cage trying to get back on his feet, but he repeatedly says he didn’t go anywhere. He meets with director David Gordon Green, playing himself, about a possible role in an upcoming movie. The meeting is going well until Cage suddenly recites lines from the script in his own fashion.
Unfortunately, Cage’s agent, Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris), tells him Green is going with someone else. But there is an offer of $1 million to work at a birthday party. Cage finds this out at the house of his fictional ex-wife, Olivia Henson (Sharon Horgan), right before the 16th birthay party of their daughter, Addy (Lily Sheen). So, he gets a little drunk and ends up embarrassing her while playing a song on the piano. Olivia drives him back to the hotel where he’s been staying and racked up a debt of $600,000 only to find he’s locked out so he calls Fink he’ll take the party gig.
What no one knows is Cage is planning on retiring after the party and travels overseas to Majorca off the coast of Spain. Billionaire playboy Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) has invited him for his birthday and hopefully can get Cage interested in a script he’s written. Javi is a huge fan of Cage’s even buying the real props from Cage’s movies, which is kind of a mockery of Cage’s own outrageous spending.
But there’s problems brewing. There’s been a kidnapping of a Catalan anti-crime politian’s daughter, Maria (Katrin Vankova) and Javi is suspected of being behind it as Cage learns Javi’s family has a history of organized crime in Europe, which helps explain Javi’s massive wealth. When Cage lands, CIA agents, Vivian Etten (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin Etten (Ike Barinholtz) plant a bug on his clothes pretending to be fans. Then, they meet him in private to employ his work to find intel that can connect Javi to the kidnapping.
Reluctantly, Cage agrees but there are complications. He talks Javi into to staying longer by suggesting they work on a new script together while telling him the one he didn’t read he’s not interested in. Vivian tells Cage that if they make the script about a kidnapping, it might lead Javi to slip up and divulge information. And Javi is smitten to be working on a script with Cage, even living out some of the action while they’re tripping on LSD. Not to give much away further to the plot, but if you’ve seen this type of movie, you know where it’s headed as Javi doesn’t seem the type who’s head of a huge crime organization.
And as it delves into more action, it works the same way Adaptation. went from being about orchid theif John Laroche to some off-the-wall movie about twin brothers running for their lives in the Florida swamp. Since most biopics fudge the facts and even add elements for dramatic effect as did Adaptation., there’s elements of Three Amigos and Galaxy Quest in which Cage as an actor is just expecting to vacation in the Mediterranean, but finds himself working with Javi to find Maria. Both Cage and Pascal have wonderful chemistry together and it’s easy to believe Pascal as a down-to-earth billionaire who just loves movies.
But Javi’s family has a checkered history that we soon find out with his cousin, Lucas (Paco Leon), who ends up being just what we thought. That being said, you know what to expect going into a movie like this. This isn’t a movie that tries to be any different or any better than it should. And that’s what makes it so good. It’s easy to turn a one-joke into something that stops being funny a third of the way in (and movies of actors playing fictionalized versions do just that). If Cage wasn’t already an actor with his own eccentric way of acting, this movie would have become dull and the action scenes would’ve seen like a way to salvage the movie rather than being very pertinent to the plot.
I give director Tom Gormican (who also co-wrote the script) credit for reigning in Haddish and Barinholtz who often sometimes go overboard in their roles. This is also a problem in other movies in which the actors are wanting to have the last joke. But both Haddish and Barinholtz do their best in their supporting roles and don’t try to overstep them.
Cage has three other movies in post-production scheduled to be released later this year. There’s also his upcoming role as Dracula in the horror-comedy Renfeld due out in 2023. Cage is now 58 and as he settles into middle-age, he may just be entering the period in his career where there’s a huge resurgance of roles of a bigger caliber. Time will only tell but that’s not to say Cage has gone anywhere.
What do you think? Please comment.