Released in 2002 ▪ Review posted December 15, 2014
“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.”
Sonny is an atypical Nicolas Cage film in every sense of the word. It is Cage’s only directorial credit to date, and for good reason. The movie is directed pedantically. Cage does everything by the book, apparently much more conservative as a filmmaker than as an actor. Plus the plot is absurd.
Starring James Franco, Sonny tells the story of a young man whose mother raised him in a New Orleans brothel as a prostitute. After coming home from the military, and despite his earnest efforts, his mother persuades him to return to his former life of male whoredom. That plays out for a little bit, and then the movie ends. It’s a bit like this Monty Python sketch, where two creative writers shun their son for his passion to become a coal miner. (The main difference being that Sonny is 27½ times longer and unintentionally funny.)
Normally I’d spend the next two paragraphs explaining how a movie about a mom-trained prostitute who exclusively serves female clients is a Hollywood contrivance to sell a film to people who want to see James Franco’s butt (B–). But apparently, writer John Carlen based the screenplay on his own life. Prior to his limited career in screenplay writing, Carlen worked as a “technical adviser,” helping actors understand what it’s like to serve time. If you want to read a supposed interview with him from a dubious source, feel free to click here.
Luckily, we aren’t here to judge Nicolas Cage’s skill as a director, but as an actor, and—as you probably guessed—he gave himself a cameo role in his own film, specifically as a garish pimp named Acid Yellow. Cage does an amazing job. He minces around his colorful pad, only encountering Sonny at his personal low point in the movie to give him a chance to make money as a prostitute for male clients. Once again Cage dons a prosthetic nose, and again he disappears into the character. Unlike his role in Deadfall, his constant cocaine use is complementary to his character, and his portrayal of being gay, though flamboyant, isn’t stereotyped. His take on a stock character in a stock movie is actually the most refreshing and interesting thing about Sonny.
This underscores the points addressed in our review of Never on Tuesday, where Cage shines in his bizarre cameo, chewing the scenery like a club kid with a pacifier. Cage has enough sense to give himself these roles, so why don’t we see him doing nutty one-offs more often? Is it because these roles aren’t being offered, or because he won’t accept unless he has complete creative control? It’s likely because if you’re going to pay to have Nicolas Cage, you probably want to use him in lots of scenes. And Nicolas Cage has no reason to accept less than he’s worth just to make a fun cameo. Regardless, I relish the fleeting yet completely insane characters of Cage’s lesser known films. Hell, he was even the best part of G-Force.
The sunset of Nicolas Cage’s career is something worth strapping in for. I think that with age and perspective, Cage will see that he doesn’t have to be like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Sylvester Stallone, doomed to star in flaccid action movies past the age anyone should star in a flaccid action movie. Cage could have a renaissance like Tim Robbins, Christopher Walken, or the great Jeff Goldblum, appearing out of nowhere with prosthetics galore and parading around buddy comedies or being the huge villain reveal at the end of mediocre thrillers. Unfortunately, being a scion of a Hollywood family doesn’t typically breed perspective. Whatever Nic’s future holds, it’s probably going to be amazing.
- How was the movie?
- How was Nic Cage’s acting?
- Did his performance make the movie worse?
- It was maybe the best thing about the movie