One day before I die, I hope to see a definitive movie (autobiography or documentary) on the life and times of the actor Nicolas Cage. A movie that, like Cage, is intense, free-wheeling, insightful, irreverent and a bit off-kilter. One that provides a suitable retrospective of all phases of Cage’s extraordinary career (gonzo indie performances, critically acclaimed dramas, big-budget action movies, straight-to-video wasteland and the current resurrection). One that acknowledges Cage’s personal faults and eccentricities. Unfortunately, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (or Unbearable) is not that movie.
Unbearable is a mild satire of the Cage persona, and devotes its three acts to the following topics: Cage the intense, hard-charging actor, Cage the intense cineaste, and finally Cage the intense big-budget action movie actor. While the first act does acknowledge some aspects of Cage’s media personality (his intensity, his debts, his drinking), it settles for lightly tapping its subject on the arm with kid gloves instead of going for the jugular. Other juicier topics that are there for the taking (his family lineage, Elvis, Superman, real estate, his numerous ex-wives) are completely ignored. The second act is essentially a buddy comedy, with Pedro Pascal’s Javi in the role of the avid fan and Cage playing the reluctant star. It works primarily because of Pascal’s good-natured goofiness. The third act is a full-on satire of the Cage big-budget action movie, and it’s the best of the three.
What’s frustrating about Unbearable is one can easily imagine many other ways it could have been better. For example, how about a movie where Cage reenacts his most interesting roles. Or a movie that satirizes one category of Nick Cage movies? The inclusion of a younger version of Cage (named “Nicky”) who periodically converses with (and antagonizes) later-day Cage hints at the level of satire the movie could have reached for. Ultimately, Unbearable is just too damn nice and respectful to its subject and its star to achieve the gonzo heights it aims for.
Perhaps it would have been asking Cage too much to act in what could have been his own celebrity roast. Given how many chances Cage has taken in his 100+ movie career, I don’t think it would have been too much to ask him to just let it rip. Fortunately, Unbearable has a fully engaged Cage on board to carry the material. Cage has sold a lot of middle-grade (and worse) material throughout his career, sometimes with his undeniable talent, sometimes using only his charisma. He graciously gives this movie a bit of both, and manages to make it an amusing and entertaining experience. As an avowed fan of Cage, I will readily admit that I expected much more from this movie. Hopefully it leads to that next breakthrough role he so desperately craves. Mildly Recommended.
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