Everyone kept saying Pig was actually so good. Actually: so good? That its poster and the premise “Someone has taken Nicolas Cage’s pig” actually doesn’t lead to the camp action revenge thriller we thought we might have on our hands.
Boldly, I recommended this movie to a friend without having seen it yet myself, and maybe even more boldly she went, and reported back: “a mix of First Cow and You Were Never Really Here” and “♥️♥️♥️♥️♥️,” and that’s it, that’s the mood exactly. Like First Cow it’s a quiet, mostly two-hander set in western Oregon partly about food and farm animals and what it looks like to make said food your purpose and income, and like You Were Never Really Here it is interested in trauma and violence only in the drawn-out aftermath of the initial injury—not the hit but the lingering bruise. And, like how I felt about both of those too: Five Hearts.
I ended up going myself with a new friend here in the city—Portland, a weather local eye from us and the maybe dozen other politely masked attendees. Rich laughter from our small crowd at the one-two punch Seattle joke. Beyond that I’m probably projecting, so will just say for myself that this is the best Portland movie I’ve seen since My Own Private Idaho. And it’s not just Nic Cage pronouncing Willamette like a local, or that of course Amir lives in the Pearl, but something in the tone of it. Something a little lost, something a little scuzzy, something a little noble underneath it. In both there’s these long scenes sitting in one of the countless and varied restaurants just letting someone talk in the grey light coming in through the windows.
It’s a good Portland movie, and it’s a good food movie. Those things don’t have to come together, but it helps. I was so happy when I realized Pig’s narrative structure was resolving into a classic hero’s journey but through North Portland food truck pods and Downtown restaurant alleys on the way to a literal katabasis beneath one of the old hotels. I was so happy the whole time I was watching Pig, not necessarily from what was happening, it’s all very contemplative and largely about loss (and, very much, about taking), but so happy with how it was happening. The form is so so solid. Again, it’s downright classical, even unto the mythological name of the trendy restaurant they go to with the orbs of fir smoke. This movie is buttoned up, as the chef judges used to compliment the plating on the cooking show I used to work on. It’s the kind of story that just calmly builds a shape where it’s so simple and clear that both main characters are going to be required for the narrative resolution, and it just feels good and clean.
I also spent this movie just so happy for this young actor Alex Wolff. I hadn’t seen him in anything before, though I learned later he’s the Hereditary kid, for people tapped into the A24 horror scene. But for someone who is definitely not a household name at present, he had such a good yet not easy opportunity here, and he nailed it. His role in the film is to support Nicolas Cage, he’s supposed to let Nicolas Cage be the main note and provide the complementary notes as needed. This means he has to distinguish himself enough to be able to sound that complement, yet not draw too much focus from Cage, who needs space and attention to do the wonderfully grounded yet fragile thing he’s doing here.
And man, Alex Wolff just aces this balance. He does a beautiful job not only with the snobby, wounded detail of his character, but also this broader view of how his performance is supposed to function in the movie whole. Can’t wait to see him show up in future stuff and think aw yay it’s the boy from Pig, which was actually so good.