Nicolas Cage and director Michael Saporski swerve all expectations
When you see that a movie named Pig is about a man in the wilderness played by Nicolas Cage whose pig gets stolen and he will do everything he can to get it back you probably expect a trashy b-movie action bloodbath with a completely deranged and wild Cage out of control. Instead, what you get is a meditative gem of a picture about love, loss, family, loneliness and a perfect metaphor of today’s social class with the best Nicolas Cage performance in years.
Rob (Cage) lives somewhere in the woods in Oregon in a small shack and spends his days hunting truffles with his beloved pig Apple and cooking surprisingly complex food for a man in his situation (mushroom tart looked delicious). Other than hunting and cooking Rob is very interested in an old cassette tilted” for Robin “but doesn’t have the strength to play it.
He has a deal with a young aspiring food distributor Amir (Alex Wolff) with whom he trades truffles for some basic supplies. Everything changes when some unknown assailants kidnap his pig and Rob is desperate to find it. It is here where you expect Cage to pick up some guns and start shooting people in retaliation but instead the movie becomes an anti-revenge journey about finding companionship, acceptance and dealing with deep personal trauma
He asks Amir for help since he is basically the only person he knows; Amir is reluctant at first but as the pig is also his golden goose he agrees to go to Portland with Rob. We quickly see that Rob knows his way around the city and he meets with a shady character Edgar who teases that Rob used to big some kind of big shot in the past. He refuses to help them and they continue their search.
In the process they began to develop somewhat of a father and son relationship and we begin to know more about them and what lies beneath both of their surfaces. Behind Rob’s facade lies a deeply emotional and intelligent person who ran into the wood hiding from some for of pain and it is quite clear that the pig means much more to him than just a truffle hunting accessory and behinds Amir’s flashy and loud masks hides a deeply insecure young man desperate to prove to his father that he is worthy and you earn his respect (who is also in the food distribution business)
Desperate to find the Pig they go to some weird underground restaurant personnel fight club run by Edgar in which one person must endure a beating without falling down for a full minute. There we finally learn, to the absolute shock to everyone their Rob full name- Robin Feld. He takes a beating like a champ and they are sent to some fancy michellin star wannabe restaurant.
There we finally get to know who Rob(in) really is or in this case was- a famous masterchef. In the restaurant they meet with the head chef of the restaurant who was an intern at Rob(in) restaurant years ago (and fired him after two months)
In the best scene of the movie Rob(in) completely emasculates the head chef for not being himself and following his dreams instead focusing on what other people think about him. On the verge of a mental breakdown the head chef finally tells them where the pig is- Amir’s father Darius (Adam Arkin) has it.
Robin immediately goes in his mansion who in so many words tells him to piss of, but for his troubles he will give him 20 thousand dollars which Robin refuses. Before leaving we finally have the last piece of the puzzle- Robin left everything he had because his wife died
Eager to get his beloved pig back he is left to his last resort, and no it’s still not guns and bombs but rather knives and pans- Rob will cook the meal he made for Darius and his wife (who is now in a coma after trying to commit suicide) twenty years ago, the last time that they were happy.
In a very emotional dinner Darius finally softens up and admits to Robin the truth- the pig accidentally died. Defeated and mentally broken Robin decides that there is nothing left to do but to return to the cabin. Before parting ways he says to Amir “I’ll see you next thurday” (he earlier admitted that he didn’t need the pig for hunting at all, he just loved her) indicating the respect he knows has for Amir and Robin need for some sort of a companion.
In the last scene we see Robin returning to his all alone and before he goes to bed, he finally listens to the cassette which contains the song his late wife left for him.
An extremely confident debut
Independent art movies like this one tend to have a habit of stepping into one of two types of traps: either the movie is too pretentious because of the authors wishes to tell and show too much or it can be a tiresome slow burner. Luckily director Michael Saporski in his debut feature film skillfully avoids both. Watching Pig it seems that Saporski is quite an experienced filmmaker with over a dozen movies under his belt giving the movie a wonderful visual contrast between the wilderness and the forest with its dark muted grey tones with the more brighter colors in the city of Portland. Also the movie is paced almost perfectly reveling parts of the mystery of who Rob actually is in equal portions keeping the viewer even more interested but not bombarding him with too much information and exposition.
Even though he built his (in)famous reputation for his wild interpretations a restrained Cage is the best Cage. He plays Rob perfectly, a man of very few words, who choses them wisely giving you the sense that under the hobo look lies a very deep and complex person who obviously carries deep personal trauma everywhere he goes. Alex Wolff’s Amir as a flamboyant and flashy but deep down insecure and lonely individual is the perfect counterpart to Rob’s bizarre bigger than life persona and they play of each other very well. A special mention has to be given to a titular character. Even though the pigs screen time is very limited it is still a very important presence in the movie due to the reason that you have to setup the motivation why does Rob care for his pig so much. It is even more impressive that the pig comes across very sweet and lovable given the fact it was played by an untrained pig.
If “Mandy” marked the beginning of somewhat of a resurgence of Cage’s career followed by “Colors out of space” and “Willy’s Wonderland” than “Pig” marks its pinnacle and for the director Michael Saporski marks the begging of a very promising future.