It seems like I'm doing this review thing a lot, so here I go again with a movie I just watched for the first time today. As usual, spoilers follow.
Splinterheads is a little-known 2009 romantic comedy, telling the story about how Justin's (Thomas Middleitch) dead-end life gets turned upside-down when he meets Galaxy (Rachael Taylor), a "splinterhead"¹ who works - and hustles - at the carnival in Justin's town. Things are further complicated by the poor relationship between Justin and his mother's ex-boyfriend Bruce (Christopher McDonald), and Galaxy's relationship with her abusive boyfriend Reggie (Dean Winters).
It's a small pity this film never saw much of a wide release. Despite its drawbacks - and there are a few - the film isn't too bad. So I'll start with the drawbacks so I can end on a high note. First and foremost is the film's pace - it feels too slow for a 2009 movie, and it doesn't quite feel right for an older movie. I almost lost interest at a few points, and had to keep powering on through those bits. Even for a romantic comedy (a genre that does have quite a few slow-paced films), it didn't quite feel right. It was almost as if the film was trying to be a comedy-drama, but it wasn't doing that job very well. The only times the film picked up pace were at either end, and not in bits where (for example) Justin is confronted by Reggie.
Though there was some decent acting overall in the film, Thomas Middleitch's performance wasn't fantastic. He is supposed to be playing an awkward twentysomething who hasn't quite got his life worked out the way a lot of people would like. Not bad on the twentysomething. Too good on the awkward. Too good on the "haven't got life worked out". He didn't change much throughout the film either - if he's supposed to be sorting his shit out and becoming a better person, why wasn't his character evolving? That may have a bit more to do with the script than the acting, but there's still nothing to convince me that the experience with the splinterheads changed him in any way.
On the other hand, Rachael Taylor was pretty impressive. She and Dean Winters portrayed all-too-eerily-well an abusive relationship, both when Winters was on screen and when he wasn't (which is just as important). She also showed quite perfectly a twentysomething who likes having fun in her life, while juggling multiple complicated relationships. And talking of complicated relationships, the secondary storyline of Bruce trying to win back Justin's mother was a bit of fun to watch, while a little bit far-fetched. Bruce did well as both an asshole (Brits and Aussies: excuse my US spelling) and a fine, upstanding member of the community, whenever it was needed. The rest of the cast, including (but not limited to) tertiary characters of Wayne (Jason Rogel), The Amazing Steve (Jason Mantzoukas) and Wyoming (Lennon Parham) were pretty good. Sometimes not great, but in general pretty good.
My main gripes are with the pace and Middleitch's acting, but aside from that it wasn't too bad. The story was a bit of fun, the funny bits were funny (though notably more towards the start rather than the end), the scriptwriting threw off some of my expectations in a good way, and the cinematography was good (not spectacular, but it didn't need to be). It was also relatively realistic, and those bits that weren't realistic weren't too over-the-top. Which is always a big plus in my book. I also liked the soundtrack - one thing that I always look out for in a film is how overbearing the soundtrack is (or lack thereof), and this one was definitely in the "lack thereof" category. Very well-handled. In general, every other tidbit I noticed blended in well with the story, or rather, didn't ruin it.
One final note. The tagline of "Life's full of attractions" is a nice little pun - human and carnival attractions. It's not far wrong, either - the film is all about attraction. What attracts humans to one another? What attracts people to carnivals? And what attracts people to their weird and wonderful hobbies?
I first came across Splinterheads when I got into geocaching. Galaxy's hobby was the subject of several trailers for the film², and I decided "this seems like an interesting movie". Though the trailers' quality well outweighed the quality of the film, I still liked it enough. I rate it 6/10 purely because I have no reason to go any higher or lower. A bit of fun and light-hearted entertainment, as long as you don't take it too seriously.
1Someone who works at a carnival, but is more unscrupulous than a "carnie". Tends to combine carnival games with con artistry.
2They remain, hands down, the best explanations of what "geocaching" actually is. You can see them here and here.