The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent review

For F*** Magazine

Director: Tom Gormican
Cast : Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Lily Sheen, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Neil Patrick Harris, Alessandra Mastronardi, Paco León, Jacob Scipio
Genre: Action/Comedy
Run Time : 107 min
Opens : 21 April 2022
Rating : NC16

In this metafictional action-comedy, Hollywood legend Nicolas Cage takes on the role he was born to play – Hollywood legend Nick Cage.

Nick Cage (Nicolas Cage) has been working steadily, but his days as a Hollywood A-lister are behind him. Cage is facing personal struggles too: he is newly divorced from his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and has a strained relationship with their teenage daughter Addy (Lily Sheen). After failing to convince director David Gordon Green to cast him in a new project, Cage’s agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) convinces him to accept an invitation to appear at a billionaire superfan’s birthday party. Cage travels to Mallorca, Spain, where he is the guest of Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), owner of an extensive collection of Nicolas Cage memorabilia. CIA operative Vivian (Tiffany Haddish), acting on intel that suggests Javi might be the head of an international arms smuggling ring, ropes Cage in to spy on Javi. Cage begins to live out what might as well be the plot of one of his movies.

Heavy on self-referential humour, the Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent feels pre-laden with post-modern irony and cynicism. However, it is a surprisingly sincere, affectionate and heartfelt ode to Nicolas Cage. The screenplay by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten is tonally assured and frequently funny. Cage gives it his all, as is his wont, and is surrounded by a capable supporting cast. Pedro Pascal might be known for playing characters who are suave or quietly tough and is a revelation as a comedic force. His instinct and timing make him more than a match for Cage, and the duo is brilliant in scenes together. The Croatian filming locations, standing in for Spain, are also beautiful to behold. This is a movie that is just endlessly entertaining and joyous and could only have been made by people who truly love and appreciate the star and subject, much as he is often regarded as a joke.

The film suffers when it comes to the subplot about Cage’s personal life. The characters of Olivia and Addy are wholly fictional and not based on any of Cage’s real spouses or children. It is perfectly understandable that the movie would depart from real life in this area (it remains completely realistic otherwise). Unfortunately, it also means that the Nick Cage character is a lot less interesting because his eccentricities seem more surface-level, when part of the appeal of Cage as a real-life figure is that his eccentricity has permeated every part of his life.

The action sequences are serviceable, but nothing to shout about and they are not film’s focus.

On Reddit, the subreddit dedicated to Cage is called “one true god”. The actor’s persona makes him an ideal candidate for a film like this, a film that could only work with Cage at its centre. Over the course of his career, Cage has won a Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, been at the forefront of bombastic 90s action movies like Face/Off, The Rock and Con Air, has lately starred in a string of direct-to-video action movies and has become a favourite target of light-hearted online mockery. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent looks back at this unique career arc. One would argue that as much as people have made fun of Cage, a certain respect and admiration underpins that, and that is something The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent captures well. For as much as he is treated as a curiosity and is the subject of debate about what truly constitutes “good acting,” the consensus among film-lovers seems to be that Cage is a legitimately talented actor. A movie like this could only happen if he had enough of a sense of humour, and while Cage took some convincing, it is a wonderful thing that this movie exists.

Summary: A celebration of a unique personality who has had a wide-ranging, fascinating career, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is more than just a meme. Beyond its amusing, internet culture-friendly premise of Nicolas Cage playing a fictionalised version of himself, this action comedy is surprisingly earnest and affectionate. Bereft of the mean streak and smug cynicism that underpins some metafictional humour, the movie wraps both hands around its star and subject. Cage is great and the supporting cast, especially Pedro Pascal, provides excellent support to his central performance. It’s also so funny you’ll laugh your face…off!

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Life

For F*** Magazine

LIFE

Director : Anton Corbijn
Cast : Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, Alessandra Mastronardi
Run Time : 1 hr 52 mins
Opens : 31 December 2015
Rating : M18 (Sexual Scene and Some Nudity)

It can be said that a photo of someone is a sliver of a life frozen in time. It is 1955 and photographer Dennis Stock (Pattinson) of the Magnum Photos Agency is out to create art, tired of the same old set visit and red carpet assignments he has been given by his boss at the agency John G. Morris (Edgerton). At a Hollywood party thrown by director Nicholas Ray (Peter J. Lucas), Stock meets young actor James Dean (DeHaan). Stock quickly identifies Dean as a fascinating potential subject and pitches a photo essay for LifeMagazine to Morris. Stock eventually convinces Dean to let him tag along, taking candid un-staged photos around L.A., New York and the farm in Indiana where Dean was raised. Warner Bros. studio head Jack Warner (Kingsley) is intent on pushing Dean as the next big thing, but Dean rejects the pageantry involved with presenting himself as a new matinee idol. Stock and Dean gradually go from being photographer and subject to true friends, all while Dean’s status as an icon for the ages is being moulded.

            It seems that garden variety “cradle to the grave” biopics just won’t cut it anymore, and a movie about a real person has to have some kind of hook to stand out from the crowd. Steve Jobs takes place behind the scenes of three key Apple/NeXT product launches, and Life focuses on the relationship between James Dean and Dennis Stock, the photographer who took some of the most iconic photos of the star. Screenwriter Luke Davies had originally intended to pen a traditional biopic about James Dean, but was struck by the photos that Stock took of Dean walking in Times Square and looked into the background of said photos. Director Anton Corbijn is himself a photographer, famed for being U2’s official photographer and the director of many of the band’s music videos. As such, it is easy to see why he was drawn to material, perhaps feeling an affinity with Stock.

            Life proves incredibly frustrating because for a film about a figure who lived fast and died (very) young, it ambles along at the most leisurely of paces. In order to capture the rising star in his most unguarded moments, Stock hung out with Dean and this movie could be titled “Hanging Out with James Dean”. When we hang out with friends, noteworthy occurrences are usually infrequent. In the film, Dean attends an acting class conducted by legendary teacher Lee Strasberg (Nicholas Rice), then goes for drinks with a few classmates and dances. It just so happens that he’s dancing with Eartha Kitt (Kelly McCreary). We glimpse a who’s who of 50s Hollywood luminaries including Elia Kazan (Michael Thierrault), Raymond Massey (John Blackwood) and Natalie Wood (Lauren Gallagher), but all the glitz and glamour is intended to be secondary to the central friendship of Stock and Dean. It’s akin to a kid at Disney World being dragged past Star Tours by his parents and forced to sit through the Hall of Presidents.


            James Dean is hailed as something of a mythic figure idolised by many and casting someone to play a personality whose look and attitude has been influential far after his death must have been an immense challenge. DeHaan might only resemble Dean on a foggy night from 30 feet away but he does make a conscious effort to convey Dean’s brooding intensity. There are moments when the performance comes across as whiny and others when it feels like someone playing dress-up, but one can tell DeHaan’s done his homework. Fellow Harry Osborn James Franco has also played Dean, in a 2001 made-for-TV biopic.

Pattinson has spent most of his post-Twilightcareer trying to distance himself from the vampire romance franchise and while he’s not a terrible actor, he’s not great either – at least not yet. Pattinson does develop a chemistry with DeHaan and the relationship progresses believably. The film depicts the dissolution of Dean’s romance with Italian starlet Pier Angeli (Mastronardi), though it seems like the film is eager to get her out of the way so the bromance may commence. Kingsley shows up to do some very delicious scene-chewing as Warner, less head honcho and more terrifying overlord of tinsel town.


Lifeviews James Dean through a photographer’s lens, pushing the glitz and glamour out of frame as much as possible. Perhaps through observing Dean, Stock changed and impacted the actor in some way as well. The approach is hit and miss – sometimes, Life’s quiet approach distinguishes it from melodramatic broad strokes biopics but at others, this feels like a boring movie about a fascinating subject, never digging quite deep enough.



Summary:While thoughtfully crafted, there are considerable stretches where Life seems to come to a standstill, the low-key approach working both for and against it.

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong