April 18, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Michael Sarnowski
Culture Representation: Taking place in Portland, Oregon, the dramatic film “Pig” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: A reclusive truffle hunter goes on a mission to find his beloved pig that was stolen from him.
Culture Audience: “Pig” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Nicolas Cage and well-made independent films.
Dark, brooding yet surprisingly sentimental, “Pig” takes a simple concept of a truffle hunter looking for his stolen pig and turns this offbeat mystery into an emotionally moving story. The film’s main appeal is a standout performance by Nicolas Cage, who can count “Pig” as one of his best movies in a career where has done a diverse array of projects of varying qualities. What “Pig” does so well is buck conventions of the characters and scenarios that are usually in this type of drama. This story is as much about a man looking for his closest companion as it is about the same man confronting himself and his past.
“Pig” is the very impressive feature-film directorial debut of Michael Sarnowski, who wrote the “Pig” screenplay from a story conceived by Sarnowski and Vanessa Block. The movie (which takes place in Portland, Oregon) opens with a reclusive truffle hunter named Rob (played by Cage) making a sale to his biggest client: a man in his 20s named Amir (played by Alex Wolff), who visits Rob every Thursday to do business.
Rob, who is a lonely widower, has a sow who is his only truffle-hunting animal and therefore Rob’s lifeline to Rob’s income. This female pig is also Rob’s closest companion, whom he treats like a child. Amir comments to Rob about the pig’s truffle-finding abilities: “I don’t know how this little fucker does it.”
Amir has an air of cockiness and condescension when dealing with Rob, who has a scruffy and unkempt appearance. When Amir asks Rob if Rob ever wants a portable shower, Rob says nothing in return. Amir then says, “Good talk. See you next Thursday, asshole.”
Rob is content to live a quiet and simple life on his own. However, there are signs that he’s in deep emotional pain over the death of his wife Lori (played by Cassandra Violet in flashbacks), because he often listens mournfully to audio recordings that Lori made. It’s never really mentioned in the movie how long Lori has been deceased, but Rob’s past life is slowly revealed throughout the story.
Rob is about to go through some more emotional turmoil. One night, a break-in occurs at his home, and his pig is stolen. Rob gets assaulted during this home invasion theft. He gets in his truck to chase after the thieves, but his truck is such a clunker, it stops soon after it starts.
Rob then walks to the nearest diner to use the phone (because apparently, Rob doesn’t have a phone), so that he can call Amir and ask for his help to find his pig. When Rob tells Amir what happened, Amir is dismissive: “Listen, man. It’s not my problem.” Rob snarls, “You want your supply? I need my pig.” Rob also refuses Amir’s suggestion to get another pig.
Because Rob needs transportation to get around, Amir is the one who does the driving. Rob then goes on a quest to find the pig. It takes him down some unexpected paths that includes visiting places as disparate as an underground fight club and the mansion of Amir’s wealthy father Darius (played by Adam Arkin) and a lot of places in between.
It soon becomes obvious that the theft of Rob’s pig isn’t just about how the pig will affect his income. Rob has an emotional attachment to the pig that represents trying to heal from his grief. The pig also represents the uncomplicated dignity Rob wants to have when people he knows often look down at him or ridicule him for his simple farmer’s life. Amir starts off as shallow and self-centered, but he goes through a change of perspective when he becomes involved in Rob’s world and sees different sides to Rob.
There’s more to the story than the mystery of who stole the pig and if Rob can find this cherished animal. Viewers will also learn more about what’s behind the enigma of Rob and who he really is as a person. It’s a fascinating psychological portrait that benefits from Sarnowski’s skillful direction and writing, which keep viewers interested and invested in finding out how everything is going to end in the movie.
Cage has been doing a lot of other low-budget, independent films that aren’t really worthy of his talent. His performance in “Pig” is a very memorable portrayal of a man who’s angry at the world but also at war with himself. “Pig” is the type of artfully made film that Cage needs to be doing more often instead of the mindless schlock that has made him a punchline for too many jokes.
Neon released “Pig” in U.S. cinemas on July 15, 2021. The movie’s release date on digital and VOD was on August 3, 2021. “Pig” is also available for streaming on Hulu.