Saturday 12 February 2022

Movie Review: Pig (2021)

A drama about what matters, Pig uses a stolen animal mystery to deftly explore themes of legacy and grief.

In Oregon, unwashed truffle collector Rob (Nicolas Cage) lives in a shack deep in a forest near Portland. His pet pig helps him find the truffles, and on a weekly basis middle-man Amir (Alex Wolff) comes by for a pick-up. Amir then makes a lot of money distributing the truffles to high-end restaurants in the city.

One night thieves invade Rob's shack and steal his beloved pig, shattering his simple life. He calls upon Amir and they head into Portland to track down the stolen animal. Amir wonders how Rob will navigate the urban setting, but is shocked to learn Rob is actually Robin Feld, once the most revered chef in the city. Rob's former reputation in the fine food industry come to the fore as he doggedly tracks down his missing pig, a search that will involve Amir's father Darius (Adam Arkin).

A quiet story revealed with heart and a pinch of humour, Pig dares to be different. Director and writer Michael Sarnoski creates a traditional quest narrative, but only as a starting point for ticklish explorations of values and seismic reactions to intense loss. Like its protagonist, the film is unique, unexpected, and suitably rough around the edges. The northwest locations add a mood of damp curiosity. 

Several movies have tried and mostly failed to humanize celebrity chef culture. Pig succeeds with disarming ease. Gradually, Sarnoski cuts through the grime and stink surrounding Rob to underline food's fundamental societal role. Memories and painful losses weave through the narrative, common experiences sprouting up in unexpected places, fine food ingredients and the chefs who create artistry emerging as the music accompanying celebrations and tragedies.

Occupying plenty of room in a soulfully resigned performance, Nicolas Cage brings a philosophical tiredness to Rob, wearing caked blood as a badge of indifference to what others may think. Alex Wolff's Amir is the slick observer, believing he has his life in order but about to receive a proper education in culture and family. 

Favouring brevity over tedium, the 92 minutes of running time border on abrupt, and Rob's fragmented profundity threatens to sideline other characters' definitions. Amir's father Darius emerges as a counterpoint, and he in particular would have benefited from broader exposition. But while it's served rather hastily, Pig is still a deceptively simple meal to savour.

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