Friday Film Review--"Pig"
Can Nicolas Cage come back from the dead?
This week’s film is “Pig” an arthouse film which had a very limited theatrical release in July and is currently streaming VOD, including Apple TV. The film is the directorial debut of Michael Sarnoski and stars Nicolas Cage. You heard that right. Nic Cage. In a small, quiet, COVID-appropriate-themed, arthouse flick. Could Mr. Cage finally pivot from his string of really bad studio movies, blamed in part on a series of personal financial debacles? Could one of the greatest method actors of his generation return to form playing a reclusive chef, hiding in the woods outside Portland Oregon, selling truffles on the black market? Sounds about right.
Cage plays Rob, a former star in the uber-competitive Portland restaurant scene, who disappeared a decade ago and now lives in the forest with a truffle-hunting pig. Clearly, Rob suffered from a tragic loss and his pig is perhaps the only thing which gives him joy day in and day out. But the unthinkable happens- someone steals Rob’s pig. Rob smells a rat in Portland, and it isn’t Remy from “Ratatouiille” so he heads to several of his old haunts to reclaim his pig. Now, the premise of “Pig” itself may sound absurd, unless you have watched the Italian documentary "The Truffle Hunters" , from last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Upon watching that film, one may only conclude the bond between truffle hunter and his or her truffle hunting animal is unassailable. But that really isn’t what “Pig” is about. “Pig” like Robin Wright’s “Land” or Dev Patel’s “The Green Knight”, explores the depths in which the human condition seeks meaning, connection, and contentment. So while these films may be oversimplified as woman and land; man and sword; or in this case, man and pig, they are poetic vehicles for an existential journey. This journey is wonderfully filmed by cinematographer Patrick Scola, who creates an immersive landscape, both forested and urban. Nic Cage delivers a terrific performance of man so detached, so dirty that he barely passes as human to the judgmental eyes of a passersby.
Despite flashes of brilliance, the script trips upon itself with literal self-righteousness, and the curious choice of casting "Chicago Hope"'s Adam Arkin as the black-marke-truffle boss is a complete flop or some inside joke that I missed.
So, on my ski trail rating system, “Pig” earns my intermediate Blue Ski Trail rating. Those discerning moviegoers yearning for abstract, poetic films that usually come out in the Fall Oscar season- films which might have film-festival-guide descriptions like “boldly restrained performance” or “totally not about the thing it is about until it is” or “a guide to finding meaning when there is not a whole lot in life with meaning”- then you will love this movie and Nic Cage’s quietly fierce performance. However, if you felt betrayed by the trailer of this summer’s “The Green Knight” or you religiously avoid foreign, film festival and subtitled movies, or you think allegory is a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, you should skip this film. “Pig” is rated R for violence, language and service industry fight club.
This is Mark Harrington for KPCW’s Friday Film Review.