Applause to Nicolas Cage, applause to Alex Wolff, and a 7 minute ovation for writer and director of ‘Pig’ Michael Sarnoski. Believe every gracious word you read or hear about this film.
Yes, yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. You just read the synopsis of Pig and are now overwhelmingly excited to see a grizzled Nicolas Cage take out those mofos that took his pig sorry. Yes, exactly like an indie John Wick. I am here to tell you to abandon all those preconceptions you had because you are not ready for what this film has in store. In the same way, people told me I wasn’t ready for Mandy, I reeeeally wasn’t ready for how emotionally draining this film can be in place of Mandy’s face-melting ultra gore and overall bizarreness.
First off, I just have to say: a douchey Alex Wolff paired with a withdrawn and damaged Nicolas Cage is a match made in film heaven. The two played off each other perfectly with both turning in their own fantastic, layered performances. Starting with Nicolas Cage’s turn as the truffle hunter, all praise is due. My personal favorite performance of Cage’s remains his Oscar-winning presence in Leaving Los Angeles.
A tragic portrait of depression and alcoholism. Pig felt like a return to that era of Cage performances. Though I greatly appreciate the current animatronic killing Nicolas Cage (a Willy’s Wonderland reference), Cage’s emotional range is often overlooked in the modern era. In Pig, the seasoned and iconic actor basks in silence, conveying every emotion without dialogue.
Alex Wolff on the other held his own, not only in emotional resonance but adding layers upon layers of depth on a character that can be perceived as vain. We meet Wolff’s character in a stylish suit and a yellow Camaro. He had the attitude, the shallow swagger, and the slang to portray a truffle dealer in Portland, Oregon.
As the film goes on, we understand this character more and more, and Wolff perfectly navigated the personality and deeply rooted issues this character had. The two held their own and gave memorable performances in the film. I’ve read many articles and pieces calling for Oscar recognition for Nicolas Cage, and you know what? Add this review to the list. Though I believe this film, unfortunately, will be this year’s Uncut Gems, Cage and Wolff more than deserve the recognition.
Another presence that deserves praise and recognition is writer and director Michael Sarnoski’s vision behind the camera. A premise like this makes any mind immediately go to complex stunt work and bloody frames. But Sarnoski’s decision to make the theme of attachment and healing as prevalent as it becomes much, much more than a story about a dude fighting to get his pig back. It becomes this emotional entity that offers so much to say on how we as humans deal with grief. From the time we meet Cage and Wolff’s characters to the credits, we watch these characters and their personalities unravel before us.
All without the use of flashbacks or cheesy backstory establishing dialogue. You know the kind. “I haven’t seen you since (insert overly specific event).” “I’m sorry to hear about (insert obviously deceased loved one’s name).” you get the point. Anywho, Pig works at its own pace and reveals what it has, at the right place and right time. Sarnoski’s director’s eye is one to look out for in future release slates. The fact this film had a tiny budget and 20 days to film with this to show for the final product is an achievement to be proud of. Give this man a Marvel movie, he’ll crush it.
Its resolution in the final two minutes, COMPLETES the film. So don’t expect Pig 1, 2, 3, or possibly 4 with Donnie Yen and Rina Sawayama (A John Wick 4 reference). Don’t worry, you won’t find spoilers here. Pig’s ending is beautifully cathartic and absolutely heart-wrenching. No matter how hard you try, it will be IMPOSSIBLE to predict the next scene or where the story will take you. The film stays with you.
Here I am unable to put my overwhelming positive thoughts into words that make sense. The movie ended and all I was thinking was “Damn, how can I describe this movie other than ‘Beautiful’?” I won’t forget about you, Nicolas Cage, when Oscar season rolls around. Alongside Tiffany Haddish in Bad Trip and Bo Burnham for Inside.
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