Pig ★★★★

Like a pig to a mud bath, Michael Sarnoski’s Pig wastes no time diving right in. A dimly lit cabin in the woods sets the stage for the original sin: the cloak-and-dagger pig-napping of Nicolas Cage’s treasured truffle hunter, and seemingly the only meaningful connection he has left in his life. What follows is a lean ninety-minute master class from the leading man as he canvases the culinary underworld of Portland in search of his porcine friend. 

Cage’s character is Robin Feld, a former chef turned recluse forced to return to a world he willingly left behind a decade ago. In what has to be the most subdued performance of his career, Cage still manages to dominate the screen. His shaggy physical appearance, prophetic words, and the suffering he endures in order to reconnect with his pig, result in a Christ-like character, exalted compared to those around him. He seems to have life “figured out,” and the theft of his pig disrupts that equilibrium. While the whole performance is marvellous, I must highlight the scene at the restaurant where Robin is inelegantly reunited with a former employee of his named Derrick—not in a long time has an actor done so much by saying so little. I was mesmerized.

Alex Wolff is certainly worth mentioning also. Though this is definitely Cage’s film, Wolff’s character Amir undergoes a significant change in the short run time, from a brash, braggadocios imposter to a considerate, introspective understudy, and unsurprisingly the indie standout pulls the transition off like a Hollywood vet. He’s undoubtedly cementing himself as one of cinema’s great young talents.

Pig will no doubt be a divisive film, even if just on premise alone. But look at the nature of the titular beast—pigs are divisive animals. Many in the west see them as the darling babes of nursery rhymes and IHOP breakfast menus, while in other parts of the world they see them as vile swine prohibited by the holy books and derided in rap songs. The pig at the centre of Sarnoski’s debut feature film seems to tread the line between being a cute and cuddly companion and an expendable tool of the culinary megalomaniacs. From this struggle comes many questions about consumption, purpose, connection, and reality. Who would’ve thought a film about a stolen pig could spur on such contemplation?

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