But it’s not like you might think. First of all, that underbelly turns out to be the restaurant world of Portland, Oregon. It’s hardly a den of assassins, although, in a scene that’s both stomach-churning and funny, it does turn out to have its own fight club. More surprising, Cage’s character, Robin Feld, is a pensive, quiet soul — a master chef who’s slow to anger and can reduce cold-hearted men to tears with his cooking.
For sure, there is something inherently hilarious about Cage growling, “Who. Has. My. Pig?” But more than anything else, this enchantingly odd movie grows to enfold you in a lingering sense of melancholy that rings eerily true, especially right now.
We learn, through scant exposition, that Robin has suffered a loss before this: His wife, Lori. Making Robin a grieving widower is a pretty cliched trope, which is why first-time feature director Michael Sarnoski thankfully doles out only a couple of references.
“We don’t get a lot of things to really care about,” Robin says. This is the film’s mantra. Appreciate those things and hold them close while you can. As a dog person, I applaud the film’s pointing out that animals can be as meaningful as anyone else, and that it is natural for us to feel devastated at their loss.
“Pig” also shows a wonderful willingness to humanize the characters around Robin, even his adversaries. Amir (Alex Wolff), a hotshot truffle dealer who ends up chauffeuring Robin around, initially comes off as a shallow jerk but — in a great performance from Wolff — turns out to be troubled, but a mensch. Amir’s restaurateur dad (Adam Arkin) presents as a first-rate jackass but we get a look into his suffering, too. And a high-concept chef (David Knell) — whose molecular gastronomy menu is taken apart by Robin in a brutal but amusing speech — is shown to be a vulnerable guy who’s drifted far from his true ambitions.
These characters are a valuable reminder: All people, even the ones we’re pretty sure are awful, are carrying baggage we probably don’t know about.
“There’s nothing out here for most of us,” Robin says. Hopefully, that’s not true — or if it is, it won’t be forever. But the fantasy that “Pig” offers, the relief of narrowing your world down to a few carefully curated passions, is a welcome escape at a time when all around us the world seems to be crumbling. We don’t get a lot of things to really care about. We have to hold our pigs close, whoever they may be.