I was not expecting a Nic Cage movie to be among this year’s best movies but nowadays I don’t expect a lot of things from film. Post 2019, it’s very hard to depend on Hollywood to deliver much very promptly.
Regardless, it was inevitable that we’d get another one of Nic Cage’s WEIRD movies. He’s been on a role for more than a decade now almost exclusively working with smaller filmmakers, indie directors and straight-to-dvd productions. The rest has been mixed. Most of his films hover around Left Behind/USS Indianapolis/Willy’s Wonderland level where there’s not much positive to say about the film.
Occasionally though, Nic Cage gives us a Joe, Mandy or Color Out of Space!
And that’s more or less the case with Pig, his new indie mystery drama directed by first time director Michael Sarnoski. Pig is one of the best films of 2021 so far! It’s a somber, surprising and heart breaking little 90 minute drama about a strange man searching for the love of his life: a truffle pig.
I should back up… Our lead characters name is Rob. He’s a truffle hunter in the Oregon wilderness who trades fresh truffles for supplies with a young restaurant owner who specializes in yuppie hipster food. He lives alone in a shack with his pig but his life is thrown upside down when two junkies steal the pig and sell it to an unknown man in Portland.
What follows is an unexpected story about grief, loss and family dissolution set against the strange underworld of Portland’s cooking community. At first, I was expecting the film to resolve in a more pedestrian way ala John Wick: ending with a righteous path of violence against those who did him wrong.
Much to my pleasant surprise, that didn’t happen. In fact the movie went out of its way to setup a completely opposite kind of ending from that. For all its chops, it’s dramatic writing is first rate. Part of that just comes down to how brilliant Cage’s character is capable of dressing down those around him.
As becomes immediately clear, he has vast connections around Portland through some unknown means. Everyone seems to remember who he is except his nominal sidekick. Because he has this knowledge, he’s able to utterly dismantle people around him only using his words.
On the flip side, it’s clear that Rob is in terrible pain himself. He hadn’t left his truffle shack for 15 years and it becomes clear tragedy beset him and resigned him to retreat from society. His only surviving outlet remaining is his pig, whom he has poured all of his outstanding love and care into as his companion.
Because of that, the pig itself ends up serving as the all purpose macguffin and it’s central place for the themes in the film. For Rob, this is a story about unresolved grief. For the party that stole her, it’s a story about yuppie greed, selfishness and the toll that a similar tragedy bears down on the soul until all that’s left is the empty, pleasant to look at, surface.
It’s spectacular that a film about a lost pig can draw this much pathos!