Directed by: Michael Sarnoski
Premise: A former chef (Nicolas Cage) lives in an isolated cabin with a pig and together they locate truffles and sell them to high end restaurants. When thugs kidnap the pig, the chef returns to the city in search of his pet.
What Works: Pig is a subtle and quiet film that is nevertheless impactful. The movie offers quite a lot to unpack. Its central character is a former upscale restaurant chef who has abandoned city life and society in general to live in voluntary poverty with a pig as a companion. When his pet is abducted, Cage’s character reenters society in a single-minded pursuit of his pig. The film effectively exploits an empathetic appeal; although a pig is an unusual companion most people viscerally understand the bond between pet owners and their animals and that motivation provides enough emotional urgency to carry the picture without resorting to subplots. Pig is not a revenge story. It gradually reveals itself as about something more ephemeral; this is a story about passion and meaning. Cage’s character sees the superficiality of what capitalist and consumerist society tells us is valuable and he has stripped his life down to the few things that give him happiness and meaning, namely cooking and his relationship with his pet. That gives additional meaning to the abduction of the pig and his search for it. That subtext is evident throughout Nicolas Cage’s performance. He is known for playing unusual characters in wacky movies but Cage is much more subtle in Pig. It isn’t that he’s simply underplaying it; Cage carefully calibrates his performance, opening it up at the right moments. He’s paired with Alex Woff as the son of a restaurateur and Wolff’s character tries to prove himself to his father and to the industry; Wolff makes the character’s desperation and inadequacy evident without spelling it out. Adam Arkin is cast in a small role as the father of Wolff’s character and he is imposing without raising his voice or even getting out of his chair.
What Doesn’t: The premise and some of the marketing materials for Pig may lead viewers to expect that this is a violent film the vein of John Wick. Pig is not that kind of movie. It is in many respects the opposite. The moviemakers do exactly what they intend but viewers should go into Pig knowing that this is not a shoot-’em-up action picture.
DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes, and a trailer.
Bottom Line: Pig is an unusual film and it evades many of the familiar and conventional aspects of mainstream filmmaking. But this is a fascinating picture that offers a lot to think about once it’s over.
Episode: #883 (December 19, 2021)