Nicolas Cage’s brilliance as an actor has been mocked and slapped for the better part of 20 years, but the ironic love he now inspires in fans who know his work primarily from gifs, memes and YouTube supercuts of his craziest moments on screen transformed him. into the kind of marquee celebrity whose fame is largely based on willful ignorance of his actual films.
Given this, the existence of a film like The unbearable weight of massive talent is hardly a surprise. Casting him as a misunderstood movie star called – wait for it – ‘Nick Cage’, the film gives him the role he was born for but remains far too happy to settle for his meta-premise at a joke to do anything interesting with its unique character.
Sharing the same filmography (and some of the same money troubles) as his no-K counterpart, this Cage is an insecure creative wreck whose narcissistic need to perform doesn’t impress his eye-rolling teenage daughter (Lilly Mo Sheen), his loving ex-wife (Sharon Horgan), or the auteur filmmakers who can smell his despair a mile away. After missing his shot at a comeback role with an impromptu audition in a restaurant parking lot (the director he meets is played by David Gordon Green, who directed Cage in the very good 2013 indie Joe), Cage reluctantly accepts his agent’s offer of a million dollar paycheck to attend a birthday party for the mysterious Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascale), a wealthy Spanish businessman and superstar. fan of Cage, who secretly wants him to star in a movie he wrote.
It’s already an imperfect setup for a self-referential Nic Cage movie given the actor’s avowed workaholic mentality (he’s a guy who’s already done seven movies in a single year). Nevertheless, director Tom Gormican continues undeterred, increasing the absurdity with a goofy subplot involving Tiffany Haddish as a CIA agent intent on recruiting Cage to spy on his host, whom the CIA suspects of to be at the head of a criminal organization responsible for the kidnapping of the Daughter of the Catalan President.
Soon, the “real” Cage finds himself in a script straight out of a mid-1990s Nicolas Cage action movie – a promising setup abandoned by Gormican, whose inability to shoot Michael Bay-esque sets with a budget (an Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz) breaks the illusion somewhat.
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Not that the concept is so original. Galaxy Quest and Mindhorn have played this card with fictional actors before, while JCVD and My Name is Bruce have done so with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell, respectively. The film also lacks the shrewd, Hollywood satire of Being John Malkovich and the Cage-starring adaptation.
Indeed, the closest thing to an imaginative conceit is having contemporary Nick tormented by the evil Nicky, a projection of his subconscious who appears and acts like the actor when he wore a leather jacket, Wild at Heart (he is played by a digitally aged Cage). But what’s interesting about the film is Cage himself, who transcends the substandard material and predictable character arc with the kind of expressionistic performance that connects his oversized character to something truthful about the creation process. He’s not just into the joke, he’s controlling it. To paraphrase another film about a supposedly washed-up movie star, Cage will always be a huge talent. It’s the photos – including this one – that have gone small.
The new documentary Ennio sees Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore fulfill his professional admiration for Ennio Morricone with an epic investigation into the Italian composer’s epic career. Although Morricone rose to prominence scoring Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns in the late 1960s, and went on to work with many world cinema giants (among them Pasolini, Malick, De Palma, Tarantino and Tornatore himself) , Morricone began as a serious avant-garde musical prodigy and composer whose innovative film work was shunned by the classical music establishment for decades. Bringing together a wealth of archival footage and an abundance of talking head interviews, the film is fascinating as it focuses on the development of his unorthodox style and the uplifting effect it had on the cinema of Italian genre, but Tornatore’s reverence for the maestro – whom he interviewed at length before his death in 2020 – makes for a repetitive film as he repeats the same points in a bid to show the influence Morricone had on the pop culture in general.
Set in France in the spring of 1963, Event focuses on a decidedly less free youth culture than those portrayed in New Wave films of the time. Adapted from Annie Ernaux’s autobiographical novel about a high school girl (Anamaria Vartolomei) whose dream of going to college to become a writer begins to shrink week by week after she becomes pregnant, the film unfolds like a dark ticking thriller about the grim reality of life for young women in a country where legalized abortion is still more than a decade away. Director Audrey Diwan deftly keeps the camera close to Anne de Vartolomei, pitting the sunlight of the school campus against the overwhelming horror of her protagonist’s mission to terminate her pregnancy, a clandestine operation reminiscent of the harrowing 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days by Cristian Mungiu.
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