Published on July 19th, 2021 | by Craig Silliphant0
Nicolas Cage stars in Pig, a film shot in only 20 days on a shoestring budget, yet it feels surprising and deeply thoughtful and atmospheric.
Some of the marketing for Pig makes it seem like a bit of a John Wick knock off. The comparison is fair enough, though misleading. In John Wick, ruffians kill the titular assassin’s dog, and he works his way through the underground to find those responsible. In Pig, Nicolas Cage plays an off-the-grid truffle forager whose pig is stolen and he works his way through the underground to find those responsible.
But that’s where the similarities end. In fact, just when you think the movie’s going to explode, Pig reveals that it’s more of an anti-John Wick film. At every turn, when you brace for Nic Cage to go full-Nic Cage on everyone’s ass, he surprises you. He takes a punch. He turns the other cheek and Ted Lassos them. He uses the way he sees through people to mess with their whole approach. He is a man who acts, but forsakes action.
As Robin (Cage) and his enlisted guide, Amir (Alex Wolff) go deeper into the mystery, I felt like it had more in common with classical mythology. One of the leads they follow takes them to a restaurant called Eurydice, name-checking the tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice (the one where the husband goes to Hades to retrieve his wife but screws it up and she has to stay there). Pig is an odyssey into the underworld.
Orpheus and Eurydice is a tale love and loss. So is Pig.
Robin lost his pig. He lost his wife. And then his place in society. Amir lost his mother and also his father (who is still there, but they have no real relationship). Amir’s father (Adam Arkin) lost his wife. Pig is no action movie; it’s a sad, atmospheric, thoughtful meditation on loss and grief.
It’s grounded by great performances from everyone, especially Cage’s quiet determination and Wolff’s empathy. It’s also made more interesting and even funny by its setting in the Portland foodie scene. The film celebrates the artisanship of this world, while also poking fun at the pretentiousness of it.
Oddly enough, Pig’s concept is a bit silly or far-fetched. So are some of their encounters; an underground hipster restaurant worker fight club sounds like something out of Portlandia. But it’s this strangeness that makes Robin’s odyssey unique and otherworldly. Real and not real at the same time.
Pig isn’t technically isn’t inventing anything we haven’t seen before; its premise is John Wick, movies like Oh Brother, Where Art Thou are based in mythology, and there are a number of food fetish movies. It’s certainly not the first film about grief. And yet, in its own beautiful, low key way, first-time feature writer/director Michael Sarnoski arranges all those elements in a way that feels like something new. Pig surprises. Again and again.
And as much as the film is about loss, it also wants you to know that it’s okay to turn the page. Even when the only thing that’s certain is that you’ll one day lose everything you love. Even though everything is ultimately impermanent, it’s important to keep living, feeling, and loving. To keep foraging for these things that make us whole.