‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ review: Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal show off their silly sides

Cage plays a character named Nick Cage, but the judiciously distributed bits of his films remove any doubt about who he’s supposed to be, even if he’s playing (hopefully) an exaggerated version of himself.

As for other cinematic touchstones, Cage states or is told more than once that he’s a movie star, not an actor, echoing Peter O’Toole’s fearless star in “My Favorite Year,” which certainly qualifies as good company even if the movie doesn’t. scale those heights.

Directed and co-written by Tom Gormican (who has another feature film under his belt), the film calls for Cage to be a great sportsman, presenting him as a near-failed star who misses out on what he keeps describing as the potential role of a lifetime. His ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) and his teenage daughter (Lily Sheen) roll a lot of eyes around him, speaking of past slights thanks to his acting self-absorption.

Living in a hotel and strapped for cash, Cage reluctantly agrees to attend a wealthy superfan’s birthday party in Spain for a hefty fee, despite being miserable at the prospect. But said fan, Javi (Pascal), brings a lot of baggage to the situation as the notorious boss of a criminal cartel, with a pair of US government agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, both underemployed) on his tail.

Cage thus gets a chance to relive the espionage roles he’s played in real life, a scenario he approaches with enthusiasm for method and no small amount of terror. The undercover job is further complicated by the fact that he teams up with Javi, sharing not only a love of movies (and not him, by the way) but similar tastes that Javi brings to his dream of working with Cage, which triggers fun debates about whether there’s still room for the real character-driven drama to develop.

What makes the film work is the interaction between the leads, balancing their macho stance, their respective needs, and the unlikely friendship that comes from that mix. Pascal may also show a lighter side that he recently exhibited to less successful effect in Netflix’s “The Bubble” (a far worse movie), creating a desire to see the Mandalorian shed his tough-guy shell more often.

As for Cage, his full-throated performance (literally, given the amount of screaming he does) hilariously takes on an image of celebrity narcissism, best exemplified by his shocked and silent reaction when he sees Javi’s life-size replica. , on the right. before he offers to buy it.

Like his title, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” becomes too much of a good thing down the stretch, but by then, he’s built up enough goodwill to close the deal. And while there may be limited theatrical appetite these days for the character-driven film Nick and Javi have years of making, there should be some room for this.