Pig

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

It’s difficult to pinpoint when Nicolas Cage first earned a reputation as an eccentric actor. Many say it started back in 1988 when he ate live cockroach in the cult comedy-horror Vampire’s Kiss. I’d argue it started even earlier. Listen to the high-pitched voice he uses in Peggy Sue Got Married and tell me that’s not a ridiculous choice. Anyway, his scenery-chewing sensibilities continue to be put to good use. Recent productions Mandy and Color out of Space continue to feature manic performances. So it is an amusing irony that a movie where he doesn’t “ham it up” is in a picture called Pig.

This is the portrait of a reclusive hermit named Robin Feld who owns a truffle-finding pig. Then one day some intruders break into his home and steal her. Thus begins an expedition to find out where his beloved pet has been taken. At first, we’re led to believe he’s practically homeless living in a shack in the forested outskirts of Portland but little details are slowly unveiled. Robin is currently a widower mourning the death of his wife. We find out rather early that he was once a prominent chef. He is joined by a cohort named Amir (Alex Wolff) — an awkward young man who supplies luxury ingredients to high-end restaurants.

This is an odd saga. We are in the dark about a lot of things. Bizarre developments are presented gradually. The depiction uncovers a world of fine dining with a seedy underbelly amongst restaurant workers. There’s a bewildering scene of something you might find in the movie Fight Club. That idiosyncratic humor pervades the film. In a key moment at Eurydice, the hottest restaurant in Portland, there’s a reveal of a plate — a single scallop. The server explains:

“We’ve emulsified locally sourced scallops encased in a flash-frozen seawater roe blend, on a bed of foraged huckleberry foam, all bathed in the smoke from Douglas fir cones.”

The absurdist description and visual of the minuscule bite pokes fun at the fine dining scene, but the sendup is glib. Writer/director Michael Sarnoski (who co-wrote the story with Vanessa Block) seeks to expose the inauthenticity of the experience. Robin berates the chef (David Knell) for not following his dream to open a pub. Later Robin’s odyssey to find a salted baguette leads him to a bakery. These and many other quirky but inessential details — are disclosed.

Pig is a meditative character study. There are moments to appreciate, but the culmination left me wanting more. This is a narrative that introduces us to Darius (Adam Arkin) — a power broker in the restaurant industry. He also happens to be Amir’s father. All I’ll say is that Darius and Robin have a history. The saga climaxes with the preparation of a dish. I was unmoved. The chronicle became one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2021. I was less captivated by the story’s dubious charms. I’ll grant that this is offbeat. Its ability to subvert expectations is perhaps its greatest asset. Too unique to completely dismiss but too muted for me to embrace.

09-07-21

4 Responses to “Pig”

  1. Hm, interesting. It’s true that the hype surrounding Cage’s performance has gotten to a fever pitch. It’s quite possible that when I finally see this thing (I’m kicking myself for missing it’s one-week (!) screening at the local theater here) that I will be underwhelmed too. It’s nice to see a review that’s not over-the-moon about it, although I do have to admit I am giddy at the thought of a less manic Nic Cage, as much as I do enjoy that part of him. Do you see awards coming his way?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t see accolades like Oscars, Golden Globes, or SAG-type awards but honors from various critics’ associations are possible given its near-universal acclaim. This movie reminds me of how First Cow was received last year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I saw the Pig and Nicolas’ brief relationship, at the beginning, I was hopeful. Unfortunately, never saw the pig again. Instead, this became a movie about multiple layers of Nicolas’ characters life. I was disappointed. 2 1/2 stars.

    Like

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