‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent’ is Kinda Heavy, Man

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The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent (CREDIT: Karen Ballard/Lionsgate)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, Sharon Horgan, Ike Barinholtz, Alessandra Mastronardi, Lily Sheen, Jacob Scipio, Neil Patrick Harris

Director: Tom Gormican

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Mainly Salty Language and a Few Shootouts

Release Date: April 22, 2022 (Theaters)

How self-aware is too self-aware? That’s a question inherent to the life of any movie star, but it’s especially salient in the case of Nicolas Cage. He’s equally beloved, mocked, or lovingly mocked for his over-the-top performances in the likes of Ghost Rider, Face/Off, The Wicker Man, and countless others. Word eventually got around to him that he was more meme than man in some corners, but instead of winking at repudiating this reputation, he’s mostly continued to follow his own particular muse in the form of his self-professed “Nouveau Shamanic” acting style. But now he’s forced to confront his career as thoroughly as possible as he plays a lightly fictionalized version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. I’m one of the biggest Nic Cage fans in the world, so my feeling coming into this flick was that it would either be my new favorite movie ever, or it would be a little too on the nose. The truth is somewhere in the middle, as Cage is of course up for whatever, but there are some Uncanny Valley-esque vibes.

The setup is basically National Treasure meets Bowfinger: in the midst of an existential crisis that has him contemplating retirement, Cage is surreptitiously hired by the CIA to aid in some geopolitical subterfuge. It all goes down in the sun-dappled vistas of Mallorca, where he’s fulfilling a million-dollar gig to attend the birthday party of Javi (Pedro Pascal), a budding screenwriter who’s also the suspected head of a cartel and supposed mastermind behind a recent kidnapping. But mostly, he’s an audience surrogate, with the obsessive collection of Nic Cage memorabilia to prove it. If you’re thinking that somebody who loves Nicolas Cage this much couldn’t possibly be that bad, then you should know that one of this movie’s core messages is to trust your instincts.

And what do my instincts tell me as I’m writing this review? Mostly, they say that I was kind of weirded out by how similar this Nic Cage is to the real thing without being exactly the same. Offscreen, he has a few ex-wives and two sons, while the Massively Talent-ed version has at least one ex (Sharon Horgan) that’s still a part of his daily life and a daughter named Addy (Lily Sheen). I don’t know what his relationships with his sons are like, but I hope that he’s not forcing them to watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to the point that they need to hash it out in therapy. This is all to say, Unbearable Weight gets the broad-stroke details of Cage’s unique story correct, but it renders his mystique a bit too quotidian. It’s respectful, but not transcendent. It pulls off the requisite action-adventure thrills just fine, but if you really want to know what makes this man tick, just check out any of his interviews.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is Recommended If You Like: Nonstop introspection, Geeking out about German expressionism and Paddington, Emotional straight male bonding

Grade: 3 out of 5 Nouveau Shamans

English Village High School Goes Drag When ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’

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Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (CREDIT: Amazon)

Starring: Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, Shobna Gulati, Ralph Ineson, Sharon Horgan, Richard E. Grant, Adeel Akhtar, Samuel Bottomley

Director: Jonathan Butterell

Running Time: 120 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Cruel Words and a Few Dustups

Release Date: September 10, 2021 (Select Theaters)/September 17, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

Drag is huge nowadays. But it wasn’t that long ago when playing around with gender expression in many public spaces was totally verboten. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is coming out in 2021, the same year as RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13, but the stage musical it’s based on premiered in England four years ago, and the TV documentary that inspired it aired back in 2011, way before Drag Race broke into the mainstream. That is all to say, the story of 16-Year-Old Prom Drag Queen Jamie New (Max Harwood) is an Instant Period Piece. I don’t come anywhere close to batting my eye when I hear that a boy in an English village revealed in front of his whole school his propensity for dressing and performing in traditionally femnine garb, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. But not everyone is currently that open-minded, but nevertheless we know that Jamie is going to find his allies by movie’s end.

Since there’s not much need for worry, Jamie’s story will be satisfying so long as it’s compelling and features interesting characters. (And of course, also, if the tunes are catchy … which they are, if you’re into the whole modern rock opera sort of thing.) So we see him hanging out with his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), who’s always there to encourage him, just so long as it doesn’t get in the way of her Life Plan too much. And then there’s his mom Margaret (Sarah Lancashire) and her best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati), who are his biggest, most undying supporters. Meanwhile, Jamie’s trying to reach out to the dad that abandoned him (Ralph Ineson) while also dealing with some bullies and a teacher (Sharon Horgan) who simply must insist on always doing everything the proper way. This is, as I’m sure many viewers will recognize, a fairly typical teenage experience. These moments all feel like the biggest deals in the world when they’re happening, and prom feels like the massive culmination of all that. But really, this is a time when your mortal enemy could easily become your friend, and prom is mostly just an occasion to hang out with all your buds.

What’s not so typical of this tale is Loco Chanel, the veteran drag queen brought to dramatic, achingly heartfelt life by Richard E. Grant. Jamie is profoundly fortunate to encounter someone like this, and so are we. The mentorship Loco provides is invaluable. We should all be so lucky to be able to know someone who immediately encourages us to be our truest selves while also lavishly explaining the world that we’re about to enter into. So many kids today are excited to enter the world of drag, and watching Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is a perfectly decent way to get a sense of what that might be all about.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is Recommended If You Like: Well-timed Bianca Del Rio cameos, Modern Rock-Style Musicals, Rebelling against the stuffy English school system

Grade: 3 out of 5 High Heels