This little piggy is a flat-out winner.
Between his poor choice of obscure little films, Nicolas Cage (who should fire his agent on that) has been able to sneak in some fresh pieces of entertainment. Whether we’re talking about animated features (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “The Croods: A New Age”) or independent features (“Color Out of Space”), you know the actor wants to get back to his roots, when he was all that in the 90s (“Face/Off,” “Red Rock West,” “Con Air,” etc.). He now brings home the bacon with “Pig,” a drama from Neon about a truffle farmer named Rob, or Robin Feld, who lives alone in the Oregon wilderness with his beloved pig, which helps him sniff out the good stuff.
Written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, “Pig” is one of the year’s best films. It’s a gripping, emotional, and profound drama about the combination between life and food. But like the documentary “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” it’s more about one man’s humanity, and how he views the world around him.
The story begins when his pig gets stolen, and enlists the help of his young business partner Amir (Alex Wolff) to drive him to his hometown of Portland to find her. This has nothing to do with the boy’s business, which his estranged father (Adam Arkin) has conflicting feelings about, or the truffles this pig is able to find, but rather the love Ron has for her. She’s his pet, and she means more to him than anyone.
I often get into conversations with my grandmother, who loves old films, ones that aren’t poisoned with the commercialism or glamour, but rather the art form, originality, and personalities that emerge within. I share her opinions as well, but I also inform her the only movies to resonate with the classics are made within artisan films. “Pig” ranks with the big, little films. And throughout my experiences as a young film critic, I do my best to stick up for the little guys.
Cage delivers one of his most extraordinary performances, because of the convictions and moody tone he provides for his character. He’s practically a hermit, who knows more about food and life than the major chefs would even consider. And like the doc I reviewed before hand, these two people are human beings with sincere feelings and emotions.
Wolff, who has proven himself to be a fine young actor with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Hereditary,” knocks it out of the park as the young man. He’s not some arrogant big shot as the intro suggests, but rather a person who can’t connect with his father (well played by Arkin), and tries to find his solace.
The movie is also able to sneak in some dark humor that tickles you when you least expect it, and there are also a fight sequence in the underbelly of where a hotel used to be that’s sentimentally painted by cinematographer Patrick Scola. But mostly, it’s a tearjerker that “doesn’t settle for easy story formulas,” as Roger Ebert said about “Monster’s Ball.” You can tell when things don’t always turn out the way as planned, but you can also sense the depth and emotions within the script, characters, and actors. And even if “Pig” is photographed with a dark and moody atmosphere, you can still acknowledge everything going on.
As both the producer and actor, Cage explodes with greta intensity, and as the co-writer and director Sarnoski connects with the actor and character very well. We haven’t been getting much 4-star reviews this year, other than “In the Heights” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.” After all, the best films usually come during the second half of the year. And when I do make my annual Top 10 list, I hope to find “Pig” on that. It’s a great movie, it’s a powerful movie, and it’s a masterpiece.