Friday, May 27, 2022

‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ Review: Cage & Pascal Pair Heart With Absurdity in a Love Letter to Film

In a world that’s become bogged down with big blockbusters filled with CGI and larger-than-life characters, I’ve come to crave good, grounded stories. Sometimes, I also just like to have a good time at the movies, not needing everything to have a profound moment or underlying social commentary. It’s hard to find one film to fit one of those criteria, and it’s almost impossible to find one that fits both. But not all things are inconceivable, and some films can hold up to carry that unbearable weight.

Now, I love Marvel movies as much, if not more, than the next (my bylines will prove that), but I miss having riotous, uninhibited fun at films that aren’t Marvel. And that hasn’t happened as often as I would like, but Massive Talent lives up to the hype and its name because, at its core, it’s a showcase of some truly massive talent in Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal. Talent which includes perfect comedic timing, I might add.

While this film functions primarily as a comedy, with Cage and Pascal making the most enigmatic pair, the underlying theme of pure film appreciation doesn’t go unnoticed. This is a movie for people who love movies; there’s no simpler way to state it. First and foremost in this recipe for success are two actors who clearly love their profession and what their work means to audiences. The fact that Nicolas Cage agreed to this role at all was a testament to his dedication to making something that audiences will love, and like every other role he’s ever done, he gives 110% of himself over to this meta, neurotic version of himself.

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Secondly, the heart written into this story and the emotion that each of its two main players bring to their roles makes for something that could have gone too far into the perfect blend. It’s hard to strike a balance between comedy and quality character arcs, but this hits the mark in each of those areas. Watching Nick and Javi reclaim themselves from the holds of two very different foes through their friendship, but in the most absurd of ways, was so utterly satisfying that I couldn’t stop smiling.

Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate

It doesn’t need to be said but Nicolas Cage is, and always will be, a legend. And while this film is essentially a parody play of himself, it does his career and talent as an actor justice. As someone who has genuinely enjoyed Cage’s work and the general way in which he navigates his stardom, I was a bit nervous heading into this, particularly after seeing some of his own anxieties about portraying this fictionalized version of himself. However, between Javi’s (and Pascal’s) unhindered admiration of the actor and his work, and Nick’s love of film that translates from Cage’s own adoration of the art, it still felt like a pure appreciation for all Cage has done for film and audiences throughout his career.

If audiences hadn’t already been completely enamored with Pedro Pascal before this film, I don’t see how they couldn’t be now. There are very few actors that command the screen as well as Pascal as he radiates charisma, charm, and vulnerability in a way that is distinct to him and him alone, and he brings this remarkable skill to Javi. One attribute that sets Pascal above the rest is how unquestioningly clear it is that he loves what he’s doing and he appreciates wholeheartedly that he has the opportunity to do it. And he does it well. Pascal hasn’t had the chance to stretch his comedic wings in many roles prior to this, and Javi granted him the chance to show off another skill in his impressive repertoire that he hasn’t yet been granted the space to unveil.

Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate

This may not seem like a necessary theater experience, but I’m here to tell you that it is. Experiencing this film with a crowd as everyone laughs and guffaws at the antics together is the perfect balm to the past two years that have really kept us apart. Hearing my row mates laughing hysterically wheezing “what the f#%&” under their breath wasn’t something I’d want to have missed. So, if you’re able, don’t skip seeing it on the silver screen, hopefully with a fun crowd.

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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent opens in theaters April 22.

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