‘Pig’ Gazes Into the Food Void

Fancy people see the “amazing” Nic Cage movie before eating at an “amazing” restaurant

In its first act, the new Nicolas Cage vehicle ‘Pig’ seem like it’s going to be a food-themed revenge movie, a kind of ‘John Wick’ knockoff set among the fancy restaurants of Portland, Oregon. There’s one scene fairly early where Cage’s character enters a secret underground ‘Fight Club’-chamber that a sleazy guy operates for the benefit of restaurant workers. But to the movie’s credit, that turns out to be a false plot trail. ‘Pig’ is actually a movie about grief and existential despair. If that’s the kind of thing you like, then head off to your temporarily-reopened local art house.

PIG  ★★★★(4/5 stars)
Directed by: Michael Sarnoski
Written by: Vanessa Block, Michael Sarnoski
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, and a Pig
Running time: 92 min.

Cage plays a formerly trendy Portland chef who lives in rural seclusion with his only remaining friend, a prized truffle-sniffing hog. He doesn’t appear to have showered in a decade, though he clearly does all his own pickling. He and the pig eat very well. When a couple of junkies steal the pig, it sets the plot into motion.

Press play to hear a narrated version of this story, presented by AudioHopper.

‘Pig’ is not of a piece with Nicolas Cage’s recent work. In movies like ‘Mandy,’ ‘Color Out of Space,’ and “Willy’s Wonderland,’ he’s become a late-career grindhouse specialist, someone who gives it all in the weirdest films possible. This ‘Pig’ is a very different animal. Cage occasionally raises his voice, but mostly, he exudes a world-weary menace. His character, Robin Feld, has experienced the heights of human suffering and has come out the other side, Buddha-like. He has no illusions about the true nature of reality.

Because of this, Cage’s quest to find his pig takes on an epic metaphorical weight. It’s a small story about provincial people, but his quest for meaning and love feels universal. The movie falls down a little when it attempts to broaden the story to include a family that deals in luxury food goods and keeps getting in Cage’s way. The father-son conflicts of the subplot distract from the main storyline and feel a little overwritten and indie film-ish.

‘Pig’ has an exciting main storyline and features an epically brooding performance from Cage. But to me, the film’s critique of fussy luxury food culture is its strongest hand. In one scene, Cage goes to a schmancy restaurant that “deconstructs” Pacific scallops. He confronts a former disciple of his and calls him out on his expensive but soulless cuisine. The restaurant in that scene doesn’t actually feel that contemporary. Someone these days is more like to be operating an overpriced izakaya joint or a “luxury” taqueria. But it effectively calls out the meaninglessness of restaurant culture like nothing else I’ve seen in film or literature.

The irony is that the people I’ve seen praising ‘Pig’ to the skies are the same ones who rush to the latest restaurant opening, living their lives for their next “amazing” meal. I’ve been guilty of that impulse myself many times. But the latest indie film and the latest indie restaurant are the same thing, just another worthless status signifier on our short journey to the void. That’s the tasty irony of the ‘Pig’ movie. It simultaneously skewers and indulges its intended audience. The fancy-food people get to have their artisanal bread and eat it too.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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