Never on Tuesday

Never on Tuesday

The Nicolas Cage IMDB Movie Page Rampage #12

This movie almost doesn't belong in this survey of Nic Cage performances because, like his fleeting appearance in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", Cage is barely in this movie at all. Unlike "Fast Times," however, this performance, all thirty seconds of it, changes the game for Cage and launches Act II of the story of his career. From obscurity to celebrated romantic lead in ten roles, helped as he was by his familial association with the name Coppola, Nic Cage has earned an opportunity to stretch as a performer and to take some time to find out what being an A-list actor is all about.

It's the choices that Cage makes at this point in his career that are extraordinary. I suppose it could be argued that "Moonstruck" was Cage's inauguration as a mainstream actor, and that "Vampire's Kiss" was the first bizarre choice of his career. I prefer to see "Vampire's Kiss" as the culmination of Cage's plans - "Kiss" was exactly the kind of film he had wanted to make from the very beginning. Achieving that goal was a milestone. What comes next defines how he is going to develop that creative platform. And so we come to "Never on Tuesday."

Say what you like about "Vampire's Kiss", when it comes to unbridled performance excess, Cage's thirty seconds in "Never On Tuesday" are hard to beat.

This being an adamantly under-researched project, I know nothing about "Never on Tuesday" that I didn't read in the credits. Adam Rifkin, possibly known best for directing "Detroit Rock City", makes his directorial debut with this threadbare script that stars Claudia Christian ("The Hidden") and a 25 year old Peter Berg in his first feature role. After an implausible car accident on a desolate stretch of highway, mid-West hicks Eddie (Berg) and Matt (Andrew Lauer) become stranded with foxy, sophisticated stranger, Tuesday (Christian). While they wait for someone to pass by who can help them out, being as they are miles from any gas stations and a decade from nationwide cell phone service, the boys fantasize about hooking up with Tuesday while she attempts to teach them about male-female relationships outside of sex. It's sophomoric stuff, for sure. And while they wait passers by do pass by - inexplicable cameos from actors like Judd Nelson, Gilbert Godfried, Emilio Estevez, Cary Elwes and Charlie Sheen. Each cameo is broad, stupid and ultimately unhelpful to the characters or to the plot. But none are so perfectly unfathomable as Nic Cage's cameo, 11 minutes into the film, arriving just after the accident occurs.

A Ferrari Testarossa pulls up and a lanky Nic Cage gets out, wearing a red nylon anorak, a bowl haircut and sporting a huge prosthetic nose. Lurching out of the car like an anxious or constipated theatre major, Cage breathes "Is anybody hurt?" in a voice landing somewhere between Crispin Glover and Emo Philips. The performance is twitchy and affected, with a huge nervous sweep of the hand when he shrilly asks "Can I give anyone a lift?" When Berg declines the offer, making a bro-type gesture to indicate he has "everything under control" Cage returns with a knowing look that is pure camp pantomime - all bulging eyes and raised eyebrows, and lips puckering under his enormous proboscis. When Tuesday responds to the unsubtle innuendo with rolled eyes and a resigned smile, Cage begins to cackle, and we cut back to him as he's bending backwards in exaggerated mid guffaw, a gesture that is extended a second or two longer by cutting to a wider three-shot of Cage in the background and Tuesday and Matt in the foreground. The sequence ends with a return to the close shot on Cage, now crying in equally exaggerated (and utterly inexplicable) distress, getting back into his car without another word and driving away.

That's it.

While the other cameos in the film offer some real interaction with the protagonists, sometimes a plot complication, sometimes something to be reflected upon, this Cage cameo seems to exist just to inject something absurd into the humdrum proceedings, abstract for abstract's sake. Here Cage feels like an intruder from a completely different film. It's not even a recognizable performance - nothing is motivated, every twitch and pout coming from something inside Cage that doesn't appear to have any relation to the world outside him.

There is something defiant and deliberate about Cage's choices here. Perhaps this was planned and scripted as such, but regardless Cage is exactly the actor to take an idea and run with it beyond any logical extreme. Violent mood swings, psychotic reactions, absurd vocalizing - these are all the tropes that will become the stereotypical Nic Cage performance. While Cage in "Vampire's Kiss" was cartoonish in the places he was prepared to go in that characterization, he still served the story with his choices. In "Never on Tuesday" we're seeing perhaps for the first time what a Nicolas Cage performance born purely out of personal choices looks like - abstract, unrelateable, and most certainly extreme.

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