The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

23/04/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

As most cinema-goers will testify there are actually two Nicholas Cages. One of them is the skilled actor who won an Oscar for Leaving Last Vegas and starred in a whole string of superior action movies like Face/Off and Con Air. Then there’s his more recent incarnation, the wild-eyed weirdo who seems happy to turn up for any old film, so long as there’s a pay cheque and a handy chainsaw. Unfortunately, we’ve been seeing rather too much of the latter Cage over the past few years.

TUWOMT takes this basic idea and runs with it, creating something that’s both incredibly meta and perfectly happy to hold the long-cherished values of Hollywood up to ridicule. Sometimes, a great idea comes from out of the blue and, luckily, director/writer Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten managed to persuade Cage to sign on for this bizarre project, because it really couldn’t have worked without him. The result is one of the most immensely likeable movies I’ve seen in quite a while.

Actor ‘Nick Cage’ is on his uppers. He’s starred in a few too many stinkers and has failed to land the role he thinks might change his career for the better. He’s getting desperate – and it doesn’t help that his younger alter ego, ‘Nicky Coppola,’ keeps popping out of the woodwork to berate him for forgetting that he’s a film star first and an actor second. Meanwhile, he’s living in a hotel (where he owes $600,000 in back rent), he’s divorced from his long-suffering wife, Olivia (Sharon Horgan), and he’s rapidly losing the affection of his teenage daughter, Addy (Lily Mo Sheen).

When Cage’s agent, Richard (Neil Patrick Harris), mentions that Nick has just been offered a million dollars to attend a birthday party in Mallorca, he reluctantly accepts and is whisked off to the mansion of Javi Guttierrez (Pedro Pascal). Javi is Nick’s number one fan and has a collection of Cage-related movie memorabilia to prove it. He’s also written a screenplay that he wants Nick to star in. Awkward.

Almost before you can draw a breath, events start to pile in from the wings. CIA operative Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) informs Nick that Javi is a dangerous criminal who may just have kidnapped the daughter of a prominent anti-corruption politician. She wants Nick to work with her to find out where the girl has been hidden. It doesn’t help that he and Javi are getting along like a house on fire, sharing an affection for great films like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and er… Paddington 2. Oh, and one other thing. They’re planning to write a screenplay together…

If this is starting to sound distinctly unhinged, that’s exactly what TUWOMT is all about, but it’s crazy like a fox. There’s something infectiously funny about the idea of undermining the pomposity of Hollywood and Cage never holds back, investing his character – himself – with a whole raft of pretentious interests and self-destructive urges. He doesn’t actually play his part for laughs but attacks it with genuine acting skill and the film is all the funnier for it.

He and Pascal cook up a fine old bromance amidst the mayhem and, as their planned screenplay develops, so the film hurtles breathlessly from one set-piece to the next. Amidst the resulting onslaught of shoot-outs and car chases, there really isn’t time to stop for a moment and consider how unlikely it all is, but it hardly matters. While TUWOMT is unlikely to feature on future lists of ‘the best Nicolas Cage Movies of all time,’ it’s nonetheless a hoot from start to finish.

And it’s also proof that Paddington 2 – awarded a full 5 stars here on B&B – is one of the greatest films ever made.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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