This is the week cinephiles have been waiting for: Pig finally arrives in theaters across America. What is Pig? It is, of course, the film that features Nicolas Cage as a wild-truffle hunter who is searching for his kidnapped pig. (He uses the pig to hunt the truffles.)
Is this movie for real? you are likely asking yourself right now. Grub Street has seen it and can confirm that, yes, the movie is real. Also, it’s pretty good! It’s not without its flaws, but there’s a lot to like about director Michael Sarnoski’s debut film and a lot of weirdness to complement the story about a man who just really cares about his pet pig, which is named Pig.
It’s an experience, in other words. Here are some things you may want to know before watching it.
The movie is not “John Wick with a pig.”
The trailer and Cage’s recent oeuvre may make you think this is a simple revenge picture with a pig swapped in for John Wick’s murdered dog. But this is not the case. Instead, Variety accurately called the film a “strange, sad porcine drama” and “a reminder that Cage is among the most gifted, fearless actors working today.” It’s subdued in ways that fans of Cage’s cosmic freakouts may not expect, in other words, but may come to appreciate throughout the film’s 92-minute run time.
But there is an underground fight club for chefs.
Last decade, I went a few times to Friday Night Throwdown, an underground boxing series for models to beat one another up. (The last one I went to was hosted at a Bushwick gym; my friend swears Jimmy Chin was there, which, who knows? But plenty of people were.) In Pig, there’s something similar, but it’s far more bizarre and far less a scene. It’s literally underground and is run by an old acquaintance of Robin, the character Cage plays. It sort of comes out of nowhere, but it’s also going to inspire way too many cooks to try to start their own version.
The cooking scenes are better than anything in Chef’s Table.
Robin is not merely a truffle hunter leading a solitary existence in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. He is also a former chef, and the film knows how to handle its food porn. One scene follows a truffle hunt and shows Robin making a wonderful-looking wild-mushroom tart. Flour is sprinkled and dough is made and you will become hungry. Later in the film, Robin prepares pigeon breast with wild chanterelles and huckleberries. To save you from spoilers, we won’t say anything more, but it’s pretty bonkers.
Cage actually has a solid IRL appreciation of the culinary arts.
In an interview this week with GQ, the star of Con Air and Face/Off said that early in his life, he began to understand the power of food the first time he ate fried chicken with Champagne. “I’ll be darned if that wasn’t the best taste combination I’ve ever had,” he explained correctly. And, in fact, his love of food and fine wine goes back further than you may think; as he told GQ, he was 9 when this happened. “I don’t recommend for other folks who have 9-year-olds to give them Champagne, but that combination did have an impact on me,” he added. Parents, it’s up to you how you’d like to interpret that advice.
Understanding that everything is temporary will make you better at cooking French toast … or something?
In the film, Alex Wolff plays Amir, a truffle dealer who assists Robin in his pursuit of Pig. Amir is the antithesis of Robin, and we learn in one scene that he can’t cook for shit. When he makes a very bad French toast for Robin, the former chef who is now on the hunt for his kidnapped truffle pig explains that the land now called Portland was once underwater, it will be again, and we’re due for an earthquake that will wreck the Northwest. For Robin, this is a lesson in not letting yourself become possessed by earthly attachments, and he finishes by explaining the simple thing Amir did wrong with the French toast.
The film understands the difference between great food and fancy restaurants.
At one point, Robin arrives at one of the city’s posher restaurants so disheveled that one worker assumes he is homeless. (He’s not homeless; remember, he’s a former chef who now lives in the woods by choice, and he’s very good at finding truffles.) Again, we don’t want to ruin the scene, but this is a movie that doesn’t fawn over luxury lifestyles.
Nicolas Cage doesn’t freak out much.
As critics have noted, many people expected Pig to be the latest addition to the Nicolas Cage Loses His Fucking Mind for 90 Minutes canon. Alas, there’s just a dash of hysteria here, like a truffle judiciously shaved over a bowl of fresh-made pasta, so as not to overwhelm the senses.
It makes sense to do a double feature.
If you want to turn Pig into a back-to-back viewing experience, it makes sense to watch it with Roadrunner, Morgan Neville’s Anthony Bourdain documentary, which will also be released tomorrow. But you may also want to follow up Pig with a viewing of Gunda (which is distributed by Neon, the company behind Pig). What is Gunda? The New York Times describes it as an “astonishing” documentary that “offers an intimate look at the lives of a sow, her rambunctious piglets, a one-legged chicken and a herd of cows.” In a promotional blurb, Paul Thomas Anderson calls it “pure cinema.” It seems like the kind of movie Robin would like. So maybe watch that next to hold you over until Pig 2.