Pig ★★★

There’s a lot I like about Pig. It starts out as if it’s a cross between a violent revenge-fuelled actioner, and a documentary about the perils of truffle hunting. It uses Nicolas Cage’s persona as part of the lure, reaching out through the screen to his audience to draw on their pre-established expectations about his character’s likely “crazy man” arc. Over the film’s course, the bruises spread across his beaten face as a constant reminder that he’s been wronged, and to cue us to expect his vengeance at any moment. But this is all in the service of irony. Its flirtations with genre are teases without commitment. It’s mostly good fun in it’s playful, post-modern way of a nod and a wink, but in other respects it’s a tonal mess. It’s clearer about what it isn’t than what it is.

Cage plays a once-brilliant chef who’s withdrawn from society to live with his beloved truffle pig. He barely grunts at first - Cage that is - but in time he begins to mumble various things about authenticity. I found it hard to take this seriously when the film has got its tongue stuffed firmly in its cheek when it comes to his character. Don’t get me wrong, I like how it sets up to be John Wick and then pivots to be a family drama, I just don’t think it works. I think it’s attempting the old tablecloth trick - you know, the pulling away of its convoluted genre-fabric to reveal a rustic drama underneath, while not upsetting anyone. I just found the drama was too underwritten and garbled to support its thesis about the essential ingredients of living an authentic life. 

I couldn’t really pinpoint what authenticity exactly means in this film. It spreads its bets a bit. There’s the inauthenticity of affectation. There’s the authenticity of following your path and not someone else’s. Then there’s the debatable version that claims living simply in nature is more authentic than living luxuriously in the city. And then there’s the hallowed version of authenticity that you get from a profound experience. These are all quite different things and I think the film is a bit scattergun in its targets and messages. 

It’s also hypocritically condescending towards what it views as elitism. It takes cheap shots at classical music and high-concept restaurants, but what it serves up instead is some highly technical French cooking, served with rare, aged wine. This is not exactly simple and accessible stuff. It’s about as elitist as listening to classical music or even liking molecular gastronomy. In any case, taking a few great ingredients and cooking them to perfection does not guarantee a more authentic experience than applying great technical skill to a complex recipe. Both experiences can be profound. I was annoyed with the way the film promotes one man’s food philosophy above all others. In my dining experience there are many ways chefs can stuff up food, and there are many ways they can do it well. 

I know Pig’s an entertainment and it’s only superficially deep, and I know I’m taking it way too seriously, it’s just I get pissed off by reverse snobbery. Anyway, now I’ve got all that off my chest, I can return to mostly liking the film. I thought Nicolas Cage was terrific, and the little piggy was great too.

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