“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” – Nic Cage is…inevitable.
If ever there was a person who could be described as a movie, it’s Nicholas Cage. It’s right there in a title that is as pompous and full of itself as it is long. What really made me want to see the film was the movie poster. Right at the top, it says “Nicholas Cage is Nic Cage.” Knowing that tagline, the only other actor besides Cage you might immediately think this movie was about is Tom Cruise. Except, Tom Cruise thinks he’s Ethan Hunt, so it never would have worked.
(SPOILER ALERT – Nic Cage be Nick Cage.)
The most surprising thing about this movie is that it wasn’t written by Nicholas Cage. That means that writers Tom Gormican (also directing) and Kevin Etten wrote this on their own. According to an interview with Cage by The Hollywood Reporter, Cage turned it down several times before ultimately caving after Gormican sent him a personal letter. Cage originally thought the movie was just a vehicle to make fun of him but came to believe it was more of a celebration of his career, so Cage agreed to do it. In reality, it’s both. It’s a celebration of his career that pokes fun at it and Cage. In other words, it’s a bit of a roast, but a lot more fun.
Cage really is playing himself in this film. A fictionalized version, but one that is nearly indistinguishable from what we think he is. In the film, his ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) and daughter (Lily Sheen) pretty much hate him, his career is in the toilet from picking far too many bad films, and his finances are looking grim due to his lifestyle choices. Go look at his IMDb page – Cage has been in thirty-eight movies since 2012 and I’m betting you can’t name more than one of them, if any at all. And that is very much because he pissed away $150 million dollars. We really can’t blame him for being suspicious of this film’s intent.
After failing to land another role (despite some embarrassing groveling to the director) and threatened with eviction, he accepts an offer from his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) to appear at the birthday party of Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) in Mallorca, Spain. We are also treated to Nic’s alter ego, Nicky, a younger version of himself from his Valley Girl/Raising Arizona/Peggy Sue Got Married days who keeps Nic from facing reality by constantly reminding Nic that he is “Nicholas fuuuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkiiiinnnnggggg CAAAAAAGGGGGEEEEE!!!!!!!” Are we sure this movie is fictional?
Upon landing in Mallorca, undercover CIA agent Vivian Etten (Tiffany Haddish) is in the tiny airport and is surprised to see Nic walk off the plane instead of the person they were going to contact to spy on Javi. The CIA believes Javi is a major illicit arms dealer who kidnapped the daughter of a Spanish presidential candidate. Vivian’s partner Martin (Ike Barinholtz) tries to abort their mission, but Vivian decides Nicholas fucking Cage will have to do. She pretends to be a fan of his, while slipping a phone in his pocket, then informs Martin that the mission is a go. Alright – now we know the movie really is fictional, but it sure does sound like Cage’s fantasy. Or at least the audience’s fantasy of what Cage fantasizes about.
As it turns out, Javi is a huge fan of Nic and his real reason for inviting Nic to his party is to convince him to star in a movie that Javi has written. At first, Nic is just wallowing in his own misery and generally being a terrible guest. He doesn’t know about the screenplay yet but finds out after Javi’s assistant Gabriela (Alessandra Mastronardi) scares the shit out of him and makes him go on a drive with Javi. Cage resents it at first, but bonds with Javi over movies. This is where we get a second helping of Cage nostalgia (the beginning of the film is filled with it as well) that reminds us that this movie is fiction-not-fiction. This is also where the movie’s CIA plot really kicks in.
I need to repeat that this movie is the embodiment of Nicholas Cage the person and the actor, at least the public parts of his life. The entire spy plot plays out like all of his action movies and, while being completely bonkers, it’s glorious. There’s a car chase, there are drugs, there are one-liners, and there are hijinks. I pretty sure these are the parts of the screenplay that convinced Cage to be in the film. Everything about it screams HAVE FUN NIC!!! while also managing to be clever. The constant references to Cage’s filmography are so well woven into the dialogue and scenes, that despite there being tons of them it somehow feels like there aren’t enough. Which again, absolutely describes Cage’s filmography. Given his entire body of work and life, this movie was probably a foregone conclusion. I mean, he’s NICHOLAS FUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKIIIINNNNGGGGG CAAAAAAGGGGGEEEEE!!!!!!!
Rating: Ask for zero dollars back, maybe even throw a couple extra bucks out there. Apparently, Nic still needs it.