Rated R for a lot of f-words. If it was only for violence, I could see this being PG-13. But there's a lot of f-words in the movie and they're pretty in-your-face. I can't think of any sex or nudity with this movie, but Nicholas Cage does make out with himself at one point. I don't know why I should include this in an MPAA thing, but my gut says that I should at least point it out. R.
DIRECTOR: Tom Gormican
I know I missed writing yesterday. I'm back on the treadmill, which takes up time. But right now, it's late. I'm a little cold, so I'm having my first cup of tea in ages. (I've gone caffeine-free due to migraine headaches, so I'll have a decaf tea tonight.) Also, I just finished reading Misery, so the whole notion of writing is on my brain. Part of a healthy lifestyle is routine and writing is part of the routine. Also, writing doesn't seem that awful, which is good because I've watched a lot of movies in the past 48 hours.
How lucky am I, guys? The last two movies I've watched are Everything Everywhere All at Once and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent? Back-to-back? That just doesn't happen. It's a good time to be alive. Also, how insane is it that two of these movies come out so near each other? Like, we get this kind of quality of movie every few years. It's not like you can just throw a Baby Driver or a Eternal Sunshine around anytime you want. Yet, here we are, in this mini-renaissance, enjoying two very trippy movies executed well. That's something to appreciate. People seem to always say that there are no new ideas in Hollywood. Well, that's partially true. If I want to be a stick in the mud, I suppose that Everything Everywhere is riding the multiverse train and that The Unbearable Weight is improving upon JCVD. But even that, it seems like I'm trying to be that stick-in-the-mud. Yeah, there are elements that we can find in other movies, but these movies are these little gems that we haven't really gotten before.
Part of what makes Unbearable such a good time is that Nicholas Cage seems to know who he is quite intimately. I don't know if this is going to surprise anyone, but I'm going to talk about meta humor a lot in this blog. Meta humor tends to get me pretty hard. I want to be a bit cynical about it, but rarely does meta humor fail with me. I can think of one example where I genuinely got mad at a meta joke and that was Ocean's 12, with the Tess looking like Julia Roberts bit. I still flare up about that one. But meta humor done well is addressing an elephant in the room that we all want to talk about. Sometimes, with movies like This is the End or Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, that meta humor is creating a completely fictionalized version of a person that doesn't really exist. It's very funny because often the character created is so farcical and clownish that we know that the film isn't taking itself at all seriously. But with something like Unbearable, that meta humor allows us to laugh and see the actor taking a serious look at him or herself.
The fact that "The Full Cage" is a phrase that people are aware of and use when it comes to referring to actor Nicholas Cage's acting ability says something about the cultural zeitgeist. Cage has permeated Hollywood in a way that few actors can really lay claim to. The film keeps using the phrase, "I'm back" / "Not that I've really gone anywhere" to really establish where Nicholas Cage is in reference to the rest of his peers. This is a man who has won an Academy Award. He has a lot of great movies under his belt. But this is also a guy who has let his personal life influence the kind of work he does. Yet, Cage never seems apologetic for the roles he chooses. I don't want him to be. From what I understand, he takes a lot of work because he has horrible spending habits and makes poor decisions and the film doesn't shy away from that. He's also a guy who named his kid Kal-El, which is what even high school me wouldn't dream of doing, despite joking that I was going to have a kid whose first name was "James" and his middle name "Bond".
So to see Cage confronting this dichotomy by literally segmenting himself into two people is almost therapeutic to both him as an actor and to us as an audience. It's funny because his deaging looks so good mainly because he has aged really well. I never thought of that, but he doesn't look at all bad for his age. If anything, a grizzled beard suits him very well. But besides that, seeing these two Cages personify concepts that are hard to grasp is great. There's the Full Cage, who is his younger self. This is the Nicholas Cage who does insanely crazy things and has the bananas delivery that we've grown used to mimicking. I'm talking about Andy Samberg on SNL, if you need a frame of reference. But we also have a guy who just wants to be taken seriously. Neither one is healthy, by the way. The Full Cage Younger Self is so backed by ego that he can't take active criticism and the bearded older Cage is so focused on being taken seriously that he's toxic to the people around him.
It's what makes his bromance so fun. As silly as the story gets, with Javi messing with the notion of dramatic irony, it's his relationship with Javi that lets him see who he really is. Javi, despite the fact that the movie tricks you into believing that he's a sociopath, is a fan of Nicholas Cage, the actor. He's what we all are who write film blogs. He's not just a fan of Cage (admittedly, to a point of fault), but he's this guy who appreciates storytelling and what film is meant to do. Yeah, he's a goofy guy. But that goofy guy with his admiration for Cage is what gets Cage to remember what it means to make movies again. When I give summer work, I have my students watch all these movies about the love of movies. These are movies like Cinema Paradiso or Hugo. While I wouldn't add Unbearable to this list, there is that element there. Sure, Cage's movies get a little bit of a bad rep from time-to-time. Not all of them, but the oeuvre as a whole is often slagged off. Which is why it is heartbreaking to think of Javi as a bad guy. He's this guy who represents a wholesome view of film. He doesn't want to invade Cage's bubble so much as offer something positive. Sure, it gets silly with the whole third act, but that's part of the meta narrative itself. It's meant to be silly. It also gives the audience its cake while eating it too...somehow without cheating. That's pretty rare.
I want to recommend this movie so hard. Yeah, there's JCVD, which I really need to give another watch because I felt very similarly to what this movie offered. But this movie could live or die by how Nicholas Cage approached it. And when he decided to give us both the Full Cage and the Nuanced Cage, a' la Community, it worked so well. Yeah, he offers us a fictional family. But that almost seems respectful in a way. Because this is who Nicholas Cage is to us. He's this human being who is deeply flawed because we're all deeply flawed. But the movie shows that he's a good man. Not a great man, but he's done more with his life than I ever will. That's gotta count for something.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.