Following the actor through the ups and downs in recent movie history.
In his first book, film journalist Phipps notes that many moviegoers have a love-hate relationship with the “intense, sincere, a little unreadable” actor Nicolas Kim Coppola (b. 1964). After a brief bio—the actor shed his uncle Francis Ford Coppola’s name early on—the author juxtaposes insightful analyses of Cage’s films with helpful film history about a fickle industry searching for the next fad or copying the latest hit. Teen-pleasing films were hot when Cage secured a small role in Valley Girl, then a better one in his uncle’s Rumble Fish. Committed to fashioning a mythology around himself, Cage’s fierce, expressionistic performance in Birdy arrived as filmmakers were in the process of defining film for the 1980s. Cage’s “memorably vulnerable creation” in Peggy Sue Got Married was his first “undeniable hit.” Mainstream movie comedies were in transition when Cage merged the absurd and heartfelt in Raising Arizona (he almost didn’t get the part). Moonstruck, thanks to co-star Cher’s support, was his first real mainstream film. That film, writes Phipps, “conferred on Cage the status of a sex symbol, and he didn’t know what to do with it.” Riding the wave of strange, independent films released in the 1990s, he created solid performances in Wild at Heart and the dark Leaving Las Vegas, which won Cage a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Then came the ubiquitous action films, including The Rock and Face/Off. Now an accomplished movie star, he demonstrated new confidence in The Thin Red Line and Adaptation. Among Cage’s recent misses lurk some genuine hits: the underrated Matchstick Men and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, as well as the inventive, animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, for which Cage provided his voice. “Simply by persevering,” Phipps writes, “he’s seen it all, and his movies capture the face of a changing industry.”
Cage fans will relish this refreshing, extensive assessment of the mercurial, prolific actor.