EIFF 2021: Pig
Nicolas Cage gives one of his most memorable and melancholic performances as a truffle-hunting hermit reemerging into his old life in search of his beloved pig
You wouldn't want to watch Pig, the debut film by writer-director Michael Sarnoski, in Smell-O-Vision. While it’s set in the world of Portland’s fine dining scene, the heavenly gastronomic scents surely wouldn’t mask the stench of Rob (Cage), a heavyset gent who lives with a pig, in a shack with no plumbing, deep in the Oregon forest. By day, Rob and his four-legged roommate hunt for truffles, which he sells to Amir (Alex Wolff), a suit-wearing dandy from the city. By night, he mopes around listening to old cassette tapes on which a woman sings a plaintive Bruce Springsteen song.
Rob’s routine is interrupted one night when his pet porcine is pignapped. The setup suggests this smelly hermit is about to go apoplectic on Portland’s hipster foodie community but Pig doesn’t deliver on the revenge thrills its goofy premise promises. Rob’s odyssey back to his old life in the city is a more meditative journey, where his sautéing skills will prove just as important as his ability to take a punch.
In other words, Pig is no John Wick – but Sarnoski’s film does have a couple of things in common with that Keanu Reeves actioner. For one, their protagonists are more myth than men. As Rob makes his way through old acquaintances in the search for clues to his pig's whereabouts, his backstory emerges like it's foodie folklore. And both films exist in worlds a degree or two off from reality. For example, we doubt the real Portland food scene has at its heart a pseudo-fight club for angry busboys, or that a man looking as dishevelled as Rob could get a table at the poshest restaurant in town without drawing a few stares. This hint of artificiality helps overlook some of Pig’s more undercooked elements.
Rather than a film about revenge, what emerges is a surprisingly sad and satirical exploration of authenticity and grief. Despite his physical and emotional disarray, Rob might be the most put-together person in this city of haute cuisine posers. His approach to cooking is less is more, and the same could be said for Cage’s acting here. His soulful, lived-in performance in Pig isn’t likely to join the actor's infamous YouTube showreels but it’ll linger long in the memory, like a really great meal.
Pig opens the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 18 Aug, and is released in UK cinemas on 20 Aug by Altitude Films