In ‘Pig,’ a quiet memory of what might have been

Image courtesy Neon.

10/10 Pig is a satire and correction of modern filmmaking, this new age of movies put together on an assembly line without anyone directly involved seeming to take ownership of them, and of modernity in general.

Oregon- Legendary Portland chef Rob Field (Nicolas Cage, who also produces) lives alone deep in the forest with his prize truffle pig, selling the fungal delicacy for top dollar to be used in the city’s hippest restaurants. One night, he’s attacked, and his pig is stolen. Aided by his contact, Amir (Alex Wolff), Field returns to Portland to find his pig.

Pig is, before anything else, a perfect satire of contemporary movies that never once cracks a smile. The plot is ripped straight from 2014 revenge drama John Wick, which itself seemed like a silly revenge movie before projectors rolled and viewers got to see how emotionally resonant the dog murder plot really is.

Field goes in a completely different direction than Wick’s roaring rampage of revenge, but the movies are welded together, and that connection in the back of your mind is important throughout the runtime. The lifted premise is both a riff and a compliment to the action film that quickly rose to fame for its brilliant practical stuntwork, in contrast to an age of action movies where hand-to-hand violence is strangely rare and its consequences are muted. Pig’s entire thesis is to simply and quietly go about its business correctly, just as its main character does.

As Field moves deeper into Portland, the restaurant world increasingly becomes a stand-in for everything Pig scorns, from the goofy underground fighting ring among restauranteurs to the very real, and still very goofy, miniscule portion sizes and vast, square, white dishes at Portland’s most exclusive and hip eateries.

All of this is symbolized by Field himself, particularly by his perfect memory. As the film goes on, it becomes clear that he is not just someone who remembers the old days, but the physical embodiment of the past, knowing not only the city’s secret ways but the souls of its inhabitants. He progressively becomes an elemental force of truth, of the local history he embodies and the emotional honesty that has been lost since he first entered the industry.

The ornamental choices are designed around straight-faced satire as well – these sorts of backward fine dining scenes can rise up in any city, but of course Pig is set in Portland, with its cultural seat as a funhouse mirror of other major cities, and it could star any actor, but of course it’s led by Nicolas Cage, one of the most talented actors in history whom many find impossible to take seriously.

Pig is being hailed as Cage’s return to form because he doesn’t have any yelling scenes, and that’s just not true. As much fun as Cage gets made of for the bottom-of-the-barrel roles he takes and his public financial troubles, he brings the full Nicolas Cage dedication and experience to every one of those roles – that’s part of why he gets made fun of, because he takes all of these direct-to-Redbox roles so seriously. He’s perfect in everything he’s ever been in, and it’s no surprise he’s perfect in Pig, but his reputation for spectacular outbursts pulls the screws even tighter as another specific bit of violence viewers will spend the entire runtime waiting for.

This is a special, deeply human film about not only loss, but living with memory, living with both your prior self’s idea of the future and the present as it is, featuring one of the best actors in history’s best performances and pitch-perfect filmmaking from writer director Michael Sarnoski in his debut. Go see it immediately if you haven’t.

Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate. If you liked this post, you can donate to Reel Entropy here. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook and reach out to me at reelentropy@gmail.com.

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