THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT (2022)

April 21, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Calling all Nicolas Cage fans! Put the bunny back in the box and get ready for the most fun you’ll ever have with Nicolas or Nic or Nick or Nicky. And if one Cage isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck. This film has Nicolas Cage playing the (somewhat) fictional Nick Cage, and Nicolas Kim Coppola (Nicolas Cage’s birth name) playing imaginary alter-ego Nicky, a younger version of Nicolas Cage from the WILD AT HEART era who spends the movie constantly reminding Nick that he’s a movie star.

If you can’t make much sense out of all that, don’t worry, writer-director Tom Gormican and co-writer Kevin Etten have created a film that is sure to strike a chord with Nicolas Cage fans. What we see is a parody going meta in a surreal way. Very few get to star in the tribute to their own legend, but that’s what happens here. Nicolas Cage goes ‘inside baseball’ on the career of Nicolas Cage … only he does so as struggling actor Nick Cage, an actor so desperate for “the role of a lifetime” that he improvs a reading for director David Gordon Green (Cage’s director on JOE) in the parking lot of Chateau Marmont.

Having been kicked out of his rental after falling behind $600,000 in rent, Nick agrees to take a humiliating job pitched by his agent, Fink (Neil Patrick Harris). For one million dollars, he is to fly to Mallorca and hang out at the birthday party of rich super fan, Javi Gutierrez (a terrific Pedro Pascall, “The Mandalorian”). The twist here is that CIA agents played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz suspect Javi of being a notorious gun dealer who has kidnapped the young daughter of the Catalonia President. Spy-type shenanigans ensue as Nick and Javi develop a bromance that finds the two new buddies writing a film script together. And if that’s not quite enough subplots, you should know that Nick is at a breaking point in his relationship with his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and teenage daughter Abby (Lily Sheen, real life daughter of Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale).

The zaniness includes nods to more than a dozen Nicolas Cage movies, and much of the fun is derived from recognizing these. Easter eggs are everywhere for fans, and Nic expertly plays Nick (and Nicky) as a loving tribute to the characters we’ve seen in so many iconic films over the years. Additionally, on screen love is provided for the 1920 classic, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, as well as the more recent gem, PADDINGTON 2 (2017), making this a tribute to cinema lovers, Nicolas Cage fans, and comedies in general. I will admit to disliking director Gormican’s 2014 movie, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, so much that I hoped he was done as a filmmaker. It turns out, he’s back (and much improved) … not that he ever went anywhere.

Opens in theaters on April 22, 2022

WATCH THE TRAILER


TOGETHER (2021)

August 26, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. As expected, we are beginning to see an influx of “pandemic” movies and TV shows. What wasn’t expected is the unique and creative approach in this one from Co-directors Stephen Daldry (THE HOURS, 2002) and Justin Martin. The script is from Dennis Kelly and the writing, directing, and acting all work together seamlessly to create quite an unusual viewing experience.

The weight of the movie rests on the outstanding performances from James McAvoy and Sharon Horgan (GAME NIGHT, 2018). They don’t simply break the fourth wall, they outright obliterate it. These two characters, whose names we never learn, talk directly to us viewers at least as often as they do to each other. The story begins in March 2020 on the first day of COVID quarantine, and carries through for a full year. As we open, the relationship has admittedly run its course, though as the days go by, circumstances can change things. The two are joined in the house by 10 year old son Artie (Samuel Logan), who spends an inordinate amount of time hovering in the background, hearing the two adults say things he shouldn’t hear. They appear to devote very little time to the boy’s stress … although their own feelings are front and center.

It’s a bit off-putting at first as we adjust to the couple speaking directly to us. On top of that, the sharing of personal information and the overlapping dialogue of their caustic exchanges meant to hurt, make this feel a bit like we are intruding. But the conversations are so relatable since we’ve all experienced the uncertainty and frustration wrought by the pandemic. In a short amount of time, we understand these two. He shares the story of his early confrontation with a grocery clerk over his son’s food choices, while she explains the guilt associated with an ailing elderly mother during a lockdown. Their “mushroom” story is certainly one for the ages, and again, provides much insight into these two people of distinctly opposite political spectrums.

Daldry and Martin filmed this in just 10 days, and with the entire piece taking place on the lower level of the couple’s flat, the film has a definite stage feel – accentuated by the long takes and aura of live performances. The dialogue stands in for action, and Ms. Horgan’s explanation of the reality of “exponential growth” in regards to COVID is one of the most stunning math classes you’ll attend. This is a case study of personalities and the relationship effects of a pandemic, and it is infused with enough dark comedy to keep it entertaining, rather than depressing. Some similarities exist to the SXSW film THE END OF US, though this one is quite a different viewing experience.

Bleeker Street is releasing TOGETHER in theaters on 8/27/21 and digitally on 9/14/21

WATCH THE TRAILER