You want to see Nicolas Cage have a whole bunch of sex? Not just any ol’ on-screen love making. No, we’re talking about the most on-brand, over-the-top, scenery-chewing sex possible. If, for some reason the answer to that is “yes,” then oh boy, is Between Worlds the weirdo paranormal romance for you.
Between Worlds stars Cage in his latest gonzo performance as Joe, a greasy, grimy, down on his luck truck driver struggling to make rent and grieving the recent loss of his wife and daughter. Despite his wife Mary’s (Lydia Hearst) constant pleas not to be left alone, Joe’s a trucker to the bone and just couldn’t stay off the road, which is how his wife and daughter wound up dying in a fire while he was away.
Cut to the start of the film, and Joe is a hard-drinking disaster when he meets Julie (Franka Potente) in a road stop bathroom. Joe hears sounds of a scuffle in the next stall, beats down the door and intervenes when he sees a man choking Julie out, but instead of being grateful the frenzied young woman strikes back at him and tells him he “ruined everything.” Turns out Julie has a paranormal gift and can travel through the afterlife when she has a near-death experience, and she’s desperately trying to find her daughter Billie (Penelope Mitchell) after a life-threatening motorcycle accident leaves the young woman in a coma.
Joe finds a kindred spirit in Julie (not to mention a way to possibly reconnect with his family), so he takes her to the hospital and helps her find her daughter… but it’s not Billie who comes back, it’s Mary. Desperate to reconnect with her husband, she takes over the young woman’s body, getting creepier by the minute and scowling around corners while Joe and Julie strike up a romance. It’s one wickedly warped love triangle — especially when Joe realizes his dead wife has set up shop in his new girlfriend’s daughter, but it doesn’t payoff with much more than the previously-mentioned gratuitous sex scenes (though they really are something to behold).
Let’s be honest, Between Worlds is another one of those mostly trash movies you go to in the hopes of seeing the next great punk rock Cage performance. “I design where the top is,” Cage told reporters at TIFF last year, and for Between Worlds, he’s designed one skyscraper-high over the top performance. Unfortunately, unlike Mandy and even the deliciously anarchic B-movie Mom and Dad, Between Worlds doesn’t know how to harness Cage’s wildfire energy in a productive way.
Which is a shame, because there’s actually a lot of juice in writer-director Maria Pulera‘s story, she just can’t keep the chaos on the rails enough to make any of it matter. Ih a lot of ways, Between Worlds feels like the Asylum version of Don’t Look Now – stripped of all nuance, relatable human emotion, and sensuality — and I couldn’t stop thinking the whole movie how much more Pulera could have wrung from the film with a more cohesive, controlled vision.
That’s not to say there isn’t entertainment value in Between Worlds — it’s always fun to watch when Cage goes full Cage, especially when the rest of the cast is willing to hype themselves up to his level (Mitchell in particular seems to relish in her deviant turn), but he’s also a genuinely great actor capable of tremendous expressionist performance when he’s put to use well. There’s so much to like about Between Worlds, and on paper it sounds like exactly the right movie to channel Cage’s late-career mayhem, but in practice it’s flat and flimsy.
As it is, Between Worlds will always be that crazy one movie where Nicolas Cage has sex while reading a fake memoir written by… Nicolas Cage. And I guess that’s something.