One of the best films and performances of the year.
“Pig” is a title so unimpressive that you may ignore what is arguably one of the best films of the year. Additionally, Nicolas Cage does his finest work since Leaving Las Vegas, for which he won the Oscar playing a troubled drunkard. Forget his hack work of late—this is his real deal.
In Pig, he plays a troubled former top chef (companion piece at this time to the doc Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain?), Rob, who has forsaken his domain, Portland, Oregon, and gone into the wilderness with his truffle-hunting, brindle-colored pig, Brandy. When she is kidnapped, he must leave his hideout to find her in the city.
In a slowly-distributed exposition, we learn about his culinary influence on Portland and his sorrow at losing his wife. Cage plays him taciturn and gruff, a literate Grizzly Adams, if you will. When he does briefly open up, or unload, on a current chef he knew back in the day, talented writer/director Michael Sarnoski and writer Vanessa Block have him express his belief that people should follow their dream, grasping onto something that has meaning and losing all that distracts from that goal. Well-written apologia, and well-acted.
Of course, pursuing his dream of isolation is what he has done until his love of Brandy drives him into the world and his past. Cage plays Rob right, just slow and introverted enough for us to savor the greatness he was and the misanthrope he has become. A talented and philosophical recluse he is.
As we eventually see him re-create a gourmet meal from his capacious memory (he forgets neither meals nor those he has served), we verify his greatness and understand his dislike for mankind. The narrative is lean and reasons not always evident, but the truth about what he says of the world is never lost.
In the isolation all of us have experienced over the last year and a half, it is enlightening to experience someone else’s, which is never totally understood but nonetheless profound and relatable. Don’t let anyone tell you nothing happens in Pig, for as in Nomadland, everything is happening. It is about all of us, our successes and failures with our losses of love hurting most of all. In theaters.
Director: Michael Sarnoski
Screenplay: Sarnoski, Vanessa Block
Cast: Nicholas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas)
Run Time: 1h 32m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com