If you have seen Pig — or even just the trailer for Pig — you, like me, might become obsessed with the idea of a movie that stars Nicolas Cage as a grizzly truffle forager, forced to confront the demons of his past life as a chef when someone steals his beloved truffle pig. It is a full-blown pigaresque, with the stops on Cage’s descent into the culinary underworld of Portland, OR ranging from the sublime (a mausoleum with an amazing wine collection) to the ridiculous (a fine-dining restaurant that serves emulsified local scallops).
Not everyone will understand that there is literally nothing better to talk about, but I do — and I want you to know that Eater is here for you. I asked a bunch of my teammates to join me on Slack for a full-blown Pig-a-thon so we could analyze, rehash, and, in my case, ~process~ the good, bad, and truffley in Pig. Our edited conversation is below, and please do note that there are spoilers ahead.
Hillary Dixler Canavan, restaurant editor: Welcome, all, to our Pig debrief. Did you enjoy the movie, and what is your one-sentence take on it?
Terrence Doyle, Eater Boston reporter: I enjoyed the movie insofar as I enjoyed watching Nic Cage be deeply in love with a pig, which is to say: yes and no.
Nick Mancall-Bitel, editorial associate: I felt engaged but disappointed. It felt like an okay movie but not a great food movie.
Monica Burton, senior editor: I didn’t dislike it, but I don’t know if enjoyment is the right word. I think it was a thoroughly fine film, that is maybe less enjoyable if you think too much about food and restaurants on a regular basis.
Brenna Houck, Cities manager: I wish it were funnier or like a worse movie in a fun way?
HDC: I wished it was way weirder — more leaning into this imaginary culinary underworld of fight clubs and such — and fewer moments of men talking to each other about the meaning of art, creativity, and life.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Eater PDX editor: I think Nic Cage did a really incredible job, as did many of the actors at the core of it, but writing a story about the futility of life is so boring when it isn’t tied to any sort of nuance.
Lesley Suter, travel editor: I liked it a lot more than I expected but I would honestly only like to talk about the underground restaurant worker fight club.
Jaya Saxena, staff writer: It seemed like they put two good movies in the Large Hadron Collider and then this came out. It could either have been John Wick for pigs, or small and introspective, and I wish they had just chosen a lane. They never explain the fight club???
MB: I have not seen John Wick, but something that struck me was that Nic Cage never does violence, all the violence is done to him.
BJG: Some real martyr shit.
BH: The Fight Club and PDX ties felt like a very obvious Chuck Palahniuk nod.
LS: Two scenes for me that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since: fight club, and the fancy chef shaming
BH: God I loved the fancy chef shaming.
LS: That scene was truly almost Lynchian.
BJG: Also, as a Portlander, Pig didn’t seem at all tied to any sort of chef culture in Portland.
HDC: Oh yeah the idea that “Nobody wants pubs around here” ... in... PORTLAND??
BJG: Portland, which truly has hundreds of pubs.
HDC: I wish they decoupled Portland from this movie. They tried so hard to make it real to Portland — like Cage basically gives the truffle kid a monologue that’s a rehash of that amazing article “The Big Really One” (about how Portland could be lost in an earthquake-tsunami) and the underground hotel is real… But like, this is not Portland’s food scene at all. Why not go full tilt metaphor, and just do a man in the woods going into the city?
JS: The chef-shaming scene was also wild because, I understand one has to be inspired from some core place to be creative in any position, but the idea that “the customers are fake”? Food is one of the “art forms” that very much relies on customer consumption!
NMB: Agreed, that felt like one of the big problems of the movie.
LS: I believe a lot of the pickles we find ourselves in now stems from when chefs forget that it’s not actually all about them.
BH: It felt like when chefs talk about food as art but without any nuance and it annoyed me for that reason. Very self-serious.
MB: Yeah, ~ authenticity ~ was a big theme
JS: Also authenticity inherently meaning “simple pub food.”
MB: Or if you’re a baker, be a baker.
BJG: There were some sort of heavy-handed metaphors about life that seemed to lean very heavily on Portland’s tired tropes. I think the premise that fine dining or molecular gastronomy is inherently inauthentic is so tired.
HDC: It would have annoyed me much less if the film’s most important women weren’t dead or in a coma.
MB: The baker is not even visible! I couldn’t even figure out who played her on imdb.
HDC: Circling back because I just want to also note that Fight Club for Restaurant Workers where it’s just how many hits you can take is not really a subtle metaphor for the work of actual restaurant workers or artists. And I don’t get why he had to get hit in order to ask about the pig. I had some difficulties following what was happening at a plot level and also because this movie is very dark.
LS: That fight club scene didn’t even remotely drive the narrative...the entire plot could have worked without the punching.
JS: Yes, like (spoiler time), why didn’t the chef at Eurydice know the pig was dead, if the pig was supposedly for him?
LS: I still think the pig isn’t dead and that that truffle don was just a pro scammer. Like the idea that some pigeon and a baguette would dissolve his whole tough guy act is unreal.
JS: Oh so you don’t believe in the POWER OF FOOD, LESLEY?
LS: I, too, have seen Ratatouille. Slow layering of mandolin-sliced stuff in a dish? That’s some Remy stuff right there.
HDC: This brings us to an important topic for us: How does this movie work as a food movie?
LS: The food itself was cliche at best. And I always giggle at scenes when cooks pick up like, a bundle of thyme and INHALE DEEPLY.
NMB: It felt stale, pun intended. Given they did interesting things elsewhere, I expected more of the food scenes
HDC: I thought the cooking was lovely. If you didn’t want to eat that mushroom tart or the pigeon I think you’re lying.
TD: I would eat all of the food, but also I was bothered by the fact that he just picked that ostensibly very hot cast iron up and held it like it was no big deal before feeding the pig mushrooms.
HDC: I just don’t think the movie was actually interested in food or the restaurant industry. It was interested in creativity and art, and chose to set it in the restaurant world
JS: Right, which again makes it strange to be about the Singular Artist, when food is such a collaboration between chef and customer.
LS: They never even really went into truffles!
HDC: Reminder that they told consulting chef Gabe Rucker that Cage cooking with truffles would be cliche!!
MB: All of the canapes at the screening reception featured truffles, so the events people at least got over that.
HDC: But having seen the scene and the dish — the pigeon — I think it should have had truffles. Maybe a truffle from the scammer-asshole-dad’s own stash.
MB: Ooh that would have been good.
BJG: Okay so question: Has everyone here seen First Cow?
JS: Omg I was thinking about First Cow! And how it is ALSO about a woodsy man who is soft and just wants to make his food and is so much better.
BJG: It’s another beautiful woodsy movie about a man’s relationship with a barnyard animal. But I think at the core of First Cow is an optimism about taking big swings, that the impermanence of life frees us in certain ways. The heart of Nic Cage’s movie is perhaps that grief can be a blessing, in that it shows how much we cared about some of the very few things we can care about, as the film says. But for that to work, I think we would need a little more of the joy associated with the good times, and a little less talk about tsunamis and apathy. Like, there’s so much cynicism at the core of Pig.
NMB: Yes, Brooke! We had no reason to believe anything Nic Cage was saying. We don’t ever get the good stuff he’s talking up.
TD: I just kind of felt like the director was taking the piss the entire time. I still don’t believe anyone associated with Pig believes Pig is a serious film.
BH: The only thing that makes me believe they think it’s serious is that it wasn’t as funny as it could have been. we could have gone WAY over the top with looking for a truffle pig.
BJG: When the other truffle hunter gets all serious about finding the pig, I was like “OOOOH HERE WE GO!”
LS: I loved that scene.
MB: Wanted more of her for sure.
BJG: But it seemed like a good moment to ramp it up into a John-Wick-style hunt. And then all the momentum disappears.
TD: I just feel like you don’t put that fight club scene in there if you want people to take this thing seriously.
JS: But it’s so gritty.
HDC: I think the movie was actually kind of cowardly in that sense. Either dive into this imaginary weirdness or don’t. Dipping your toe into imaginary weirdness only to pull back into rank sentimentality doesn’t do it for me.
JS: And it made it harder for me to take the sentimentality seriously then.
BJG: This might be a bias on my part, but pairing grief with toxic and over-the-top violence feels like some self-indulgent masculine shit.
JS: A bunch of people experience grief and are not complete assholes to everyone around them, and also shower.
BJG: The not-showering to me was a sign that he was absolutely depressed, and thus maybe not a reliable figure to follow, as if maybe we shouldn’t take his cynicism seriously. But we don’t see ANYONE pushing back at him about this.
BH: I was waiting for someone to come and prove him wrong.
BJG: He just says “everyone’s going to die in a tsunami” and the response was “so true bestie.”
TD: I’ll say this: If Robin is played by anyone other than Nic Cage, no one talks about this movie ever, and the director probably struggles to find another job. Nic Cage elevates mediocrity/pure shit about as well as anyone in the business.
MB: He was very good in this role.
NMB: I did think that Alex Wolff did a really good job handling Cage’s energy.
BJG: Yes! I think Alex and Nic did a great job here.
HDC: I’m not sure I agree with this view from you all. As a not-frequent Nic Cage viewer, I found his performance to be about what I expected. His voice, the mumble-breathing, is so distinct, all he has to do is say the lines and keep a lid on emoting. He did that well and to good purpose, but I think others could have also done something different and also good with this part. I found Alex almost unwatchable, and in a totally different movie.
JS: Was Alex’s car just playing instructional classical music appreciation tapes? That’s what it sounded like and it felt REALLY on the nose with his dad listening to classical music all the time. Like we get it, you’re living in his shadow.
BH: Has anyone seen Gone in 60 Seconds? I’m convinced Nic Cage picked that yellow car.
NMB: Maybe they’re in the same universe.
HDC: There’s just too much men-do-art and men-have-daddy-issues and men-have-sad-dead-wives issues in this movie for me to have truly fallen for it.
JS: Despite things I liked about it, I never felt compelled by any of these characters. I did not really care about what happened to them next. Except the pig.
BJG: I, too, was only invested in the pig.
MB: The pignapping scene was actually kind of gut-wrenching.
BJG: The squeals!
TD: The pig, who is not dead.
HDC: Nic Cage Stars in Pig 2: Pig in the City.
Does anyone else have anything they want to talk about with the group?
JS: Just to be blunt: Does anyone think a good meal has the power to make you not an asshole anymore?
MB: If being an asshole was only caused by low blood sugar like in those Snickers commercials, then yes. But in this case, no.
BJG: The joy of experiencing good art makes you happy. It doesn’t make you a better person? So if you equate “being an asshole” with “sadness,” I think it tracks, but people give themselves permission to be an asshole. It’s not something out of your control.
MB: Robin really was a huge asshole. Just not a nice guy.
HDC: He fired that Eurydice chef for screwing up a pasta dish a couple of times instead of teaching him!!
BH: If only he knew his own talent as a pub owner. Oh well.
MB: Really I found all the characters lacking in kindness, from the diner waitress on.
HDC: It’s a cruel world: Find a pig to be nice to, don’t let anyone take her.