If nothing else, Alison Bagnall's feature directing debut Piggie deserves a nod of welcome for not sporting a wall-to-wall soundtrack of quaintly droning guitarscapes, like seemingly every other American independent film today. Instead it's only half quaintly droning guitarscapes. The other half features a set of off-kilter pop-folk songs, co-written by the movie's star, Savannah Haske. Songs like "My Brand New Boyfriend" and "Retrograde Uterus" fit the personality of Haske's character, at once childlike and sexually curious. They're the muted cries of a woman whose emotions are stranded in girlhood.
Haske's character lives on a farm with her father and pet pig, and she spends her days sloppily taking care of a demented old woman in a nearby small town. One day, the old woman gets a neighbor: a big-city guitarist and recovering heroin addict played by real-life indie-rocker Dean Wareham (who also scores Haske's songs). Haske buzzes around Wareham like a gnat, and though he tries not to swat her, the obsessive behavior threatens to draw the attention of the local authorities, which might discover Wareham's connection to gangster John C. Reilly.
Reilly's appearance in Piggie amounts to little more than a cameo, but he's lively and real in ways that the rest of Bagnall's cast is not. It's the material's fault. The director's previous major credit was as co-writer of Buffalo '66 with Vincent Gallo, and Piggie shares a lot of the same virtues and vices. Bagnall writes some unusual scenes, with some unusual dialogue, like when Haske and Wareham go swimming together and her oversized suit prompts a disgusted Wareham to spit, "Your stupid tit is hangin' out." When the couple finally go on a date, he scopes out the waitress and she worries whether there'll too much cheese in the seafood ravioli. But aside from the odd bit of amusingly askew Americana, Piggie mostly stays on the boonies of quirkville, where people launch into spontaneous rants about the debilitating effects of sugar, and put on their silliest clothes when trying to impress a prospective lover. Remember when independent filmmakers made movies about people who actually exist?