Release: Friday, July 16, 2021

👀 Hulu

Written by: Michael Sarnoski; Vanessa Block

Directed by: Michael Sarnoski

Starring: Nicolas Cage; Alex Wolff; Adam Arkin; Darius Pierce; David Knell

Distributor: Neon




On the outside Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut appears to be ripe material for Crazy Nic Cage. This is a story about a man living in the woods who gets his pig stolen, then ventures into the city to find his pignappers. Sounds like the recipe for a future cult classic Midnight Movie — John Wick only with oinks instead of barks.

Defiantly, Pig veers off that beaten genre path and gradually reveals itself to be a much deeper movie than action-driven, bloody retribution and one whose concerns go beyond a missing animal. An existential drama paired with a buddy adventure, the story encroaches on some familiar territory — grief and loss, change and disillusionment are perennially en vogue themes — but if you dig below the surface of those broader ideas you’ll find a lot more flavor as questions are raised about materialism and commerce, the price of things weighed against the value of relationships.

Everything in this movie feels fine-tuned, whether it’s Pat Scola’s beautiful framing of the pacific northwest, the powerful emotive quality of Alexis Grapsas and Philip Klein’s string-based score, or the near-palpable aroma of the exquisite dishes that come to bear quasi-supporting roles. But it’s the acting that tends to stand out. Truth be told, as headline-grabbing as its leading man is and though the cast sheet may be small, every performer brings their A-game and makes Pig a surprisingly absorbing experience.

Wisely calibrating the exotic impulses that have given rise to his larger-than-life persona, Nic Cage turns in one of his most affecting performances to date as Robin Feld, a respected Portland chef who has turned his back on city living for a more humble existence out in the woods. Subsisting on the outskirts of the City of Roses without so much as a cell phone, his only companion is his truffle pig upon whose snout he relies for some good eating and a bite sized bit of business. His lone contact with the outside world is Amir (Alex Wolff), an opportunist who sells locally-sourced luxury ingredients to the highest bidder in town, hoping one day to escape the shadow of his father Darius (Adam Arkin).

Introduced as the weekly headache Rob must endure, the loud and brash Amir is quickly pulled in as a full-time participant, his foibles swiftly coming under the microscope in the same way Rob’s privacy inspires questions. When a midnight assault shakes up his peaceful existence the two reluctantly team up and head to the city for answers. The ensuing adventure pulls us into a strange, esoteric world through a network of back passages and secret doors, while the most privileged access remains in the conversations shared throughout — keenly observed moments that give us a good sense of who these men are and what motivates them. Along the way, a series of revelations threatens the tenuous thread of trust they’ve managed to build, particularly as the full complexity of the film’s relationships comes into clearer focus.

As the list of potential thieves shrinks and Rob’s desperation grows, the superficial setting plays just as much of a role as any character, human or otherwise. Steeping the drama in the highfalutin, pricy world of haute cuisine, Sarnoski turns Portland’s bustling food scene into an ecosystem teeming with predators and disingenuous types. It’s a cold, harsh environment where business is kind of like the Wild West — there’s poaching and territorial disputes and a sense of lawlessness. What justice there is seems to be out of reach for Rob, a ghost on the scene for a good decade who has lost all the credibility he once had. It’s not a flattering portrait of foodie culture but it feels, like the dialogues throughout, brutally honest. 

Pig could have easily been overcooked in the wrong hands. Slow but never boring, downbeat and moody without being overwrought, the movie surprises beyond its centerpiece performance(s). There is a level of elitism to its world and to the characters that could serve as a barrier to entry and yet it all feels incredibly relatable, in large part due to the compassion Sarnoski finds for his characters and the trust he puts in his performers. One memorable sequence finds Rob and Amir preparing a meal for a special occasion. It’s an intimate moment that seems to encapsulate the slow-burn sojourn as a whole: Pig is a labor of love, each morsel ultimately savored because of the time and care put in to the preparation. Movie title be damned, Sarnoski’s vision is profoundly human.

Trying not to stew over it.

Moral of the Story: Though perhaps not one for animal lovers, Pig‘s emotional realism and enigmatic character work make it an easy recommendation for more than just Nic Cage apologists. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 92 mins.

Quoted: “We don’t get a lot of things to really care about.” 

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.eater.com 

10 thoughts on “Pig

  1. Saw this for a second time, and it still holds up. There’s something I find intriguing about underground communities, hidden from the commercial exposure of patrons literally and metaphorically “above” them. I read that there’s not much of a connection to truth between this movie and the Portland community, but I’ve been there several times, and I could totally believe that such a world could exist…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely sense there is a sending up of the customs and the industry at large, but it works almost as a satire of the vacuousness of fine dining and foodie culture. Pig is so much more than a really good Nic Cage performance.


  2. I’ll never forget the server’s explanation of that dish:

    “We’ve emulsified locally sourced scallops encased in a flash-frozen seawater roe blend, on a bed of foraged huckleberry foam, all bathed in the smoke from Douglas fir cones.”

    I think this scene means to send up the fine dining experience. I think a great chef is like an artist, but still a hilarious description that made me laugh nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So I saw this movie a couple of times before I reviewed it. The first time I watched it, I couldn’t help but think of your review and what you described. It’s definitely a tongue-in-cheek moment, but it’s also a part of the rich detail the movie applies to pretty much every aspect. I really really went for this one and I can’t wait to watch it a few more times, honestly.


    • So I don’t normally review a movie that was released into theaters a calendar year from the date of my publishing (Pig might actually be the first time I’ve done this) — I set the year mark as a rule of thumb way back when I started this site and it seems so arbitrary now. A year is a long time ago, but Pig probably would have resonated me for at least that long. It’s a hard one to get over, especially because of Cage.


    • Cheers Señor Ipios! It’s a great one, I should have had this review posted sooner (like, almost a year ago — this really pushes the limits as far as how long I’ll wait to publish), but it’s such an interesting one I had to fire it off finally. For whatever reason when I started this blog back in the day I set this policy where if something had been released a year or more ago, I wouldn’t commit to a full-on review. No idea why that was, it just seemed a calendar year was sufficient enough time to call something “old.”


    • That’s fantastic to hear Fraggle, I think you’re going to like it quite a lot honestly. It’s a really thoughtful take on some familiar themes and the performances all around are top-notch. I loved it.


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