Friday, May 14, 2021

Dead Pigs Review: A Masterful Satire About A Changing China

Release date: May 13, 2021
Running time: 122 minutes
Written and Directed By: Cathy Yan
Starring: Vivian Wu, Yang Haoyu, Li Meng, Mason Lee, David Rysdahl, Cao Kefan, Zazie Beetz

Dead Pigs is a bitingly humorous social satire about the trials and tribulations connecting a disparate group of characters in the midst of a baffling nationwide mystery. Shifting between Shanghai and the neighboring provincial town of Jiaxing, the film centers on the intersecting stories of five characters, whose loose connections begin to fatefully intertwine: a down-on-his-luck pig farmer; a feisty home-owner defending her property; a lovestruck busboy; a rudderless rich girl; and an American expat pursuing the Chinese Dream. Their fates converge and collide as thousands of dead pigs are found floating down the Huangpu River.

Dead Pigs is a masterful satire that highlights a changing, modernizing China.  But the ideas presented in this film are not unique to Chinese society, though they are accentuated by it.  The movie looks into business practices, wealth inequality, and the constant disconnect between public perception and actual reality.  The movie does this by following five very different characters whose life events intertwine throughout the movie.  This is one of those rare films that has an ensemble cast that manages to make each character equally interesting and enjoyable to watch.  I really liked seeing the very different worlds that these people lived in and their take on success and wealth.  Each one has a unique perspective and their own problems that propel the drama in this movie forward. 

Dead Pigs focuses a lot on wealth and the business environment.  It does this in a calculated and humorous way, presenting ideas to you without overtly having to say it.  It showcases some of the ridiculous business practices with humorous events and presentations.  These business scenes were a highlight for me, showing elaborate spectacles that were both impressive and ridiculous.  And it also shows some of the perceived superiority of Western ideas and individuals in some of the interactions in the film.  Several ideas got the seal of approval because it was emulating a Western idea or said by a Western character.  And the film also masterfully looks at the perception that wealth and money can solve all problems.  It is a universal lesson and I loved seeing how it was explored in this film. 

And throughout this all, Dead Pigs builds a complex and deep story.  All these character's problems intertwine in interesting ways, and their predicament constantly changes.  And this is accompanied by the perfect score for this movie.  It is one part dramatic, one part whimsical and fits wonderfully with the tone of the overall film.  My only complaint with this movie is that the ending took on a different tone and character than the overall movie.  It was a strange juxtaposition to have them together, but I also wonder if some of it was just my lack of understanding of Chinese culture and Chinese cinema.  But despite this, I really loved this satirical look at a changing, modernizing world and all the triumphs and problems that can arise from that.

Dead Pigs is a brilliant, satirical look at wealth, business practices, and social perception versus reality in a changing China, fueled by a biting humor and wonderful style.  

Watch it.

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Dead Pigs is available in Metrographs virtual cinemas starting May 13, 2021 before opening to a wide virtual release May 28, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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