I’m late to this, mostly because of my inability to find the film showing at a cinema anywhere near me. But I’ve heard good things about it and eventually, I chase it down on the small screen. My expectations are that it will turn out to be a kind of ‘John Wick with a pig’ scenario, which isn’t a prospect I relish, but happily it is gentler and a bit more nuanced than that.
Disturbingly, though, days after the viewing, I’m still not entirely sure what it is.
Nicholas Cage plays ‘Rob,’ who ekes out a precarious existence in a tumbledown cabin in the middle of a forest in Oregon. He makes his living from harvesting truffles, along with his beloved er… pig (Brandy), who has a snout for that kind of thing. Rob is visited from time to time by young entrepreneur, Amir (Alex Wolff), who sells those foraged truffles in Portland, where they are prized by chefs at the fancier dining establishments. It’s an odd arrangement but it seems to work.
But things take a nasty turn when Rob is attacked one night and his pig stolen. So, with Amir as his driver, Rob sets out for the big city with only one thing on his mind: to get his pig back. It’s nothing to do with the truffle situation, though. Rob loves her and cannot envisage life without her.
As he and Amir travel through the city, it soon becomes clear that Rob has been here before. Once upon a time, it transpires, a near legendary chef and the very mention of his full name – Robin Feld – is enough to invoke awe in everyone who hears it. (It’s hard to imagine that the names of Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay could inspire such respect.) Along the way, Rob has some strange encounters. He volunteers to be beaten up in a private fight club (as you do), he cooks food for Amir and his ruthless father, and he makes it clear that he has nothing but contempt for his former career and for the customers who used to flock to him for his gastronomic delights.
Pig is an odd film, to say the very least. While it’s refreshing to see a Nicholas Cage project that doesn’t require him to chew the scenery, it’s also probably true to say that most of what’s going on here is in the subtext. Rob is a shambling, monosyllabic central character, covered with bruises and blood throughout the film – a scene where he books a table at a swanky restaurant and none of his fellow-diners raise so much as an eyebrow actually beggars belief – and he is single minded in his determination to get that pig back, come hell or high water.
Debut director/co-writer Michael Sarnoski’s fairy tale seems to be suggesting that greeting violence with love (and food) is the way to solve problems, and perhaps he’s right on that score, but ‘turning the other cheek’ is hardly a revelation, and it doesn’t seem enough to hang an entire movie on. While it’s also true to say that Pig never goes anywhere you expect it to, it feels somehow as though the stakes need upping a little.
Bacon sandwich, anyone?