Published Aug 18, 2011Somewhere within Chaz Thorne's sophomore effort, Whirligig, is a pseudo-insightful notion that perennial fuck-ups often mask their lack of identity by latching onto whatever seems convenient and unobtrusive at the time. At least, that's all I could discern amidst the constant, strained quirkiness and off-putting attempts at humour.
Foregoing the appealing dark comedy of his first feature film, Just Buried, Thorne plays fast and loose with off-centre scenarios and tonally awkward melodrama by detailing 25-year-old Nicholas Sinclair's (Gregory Smith) return home to Nova Scotia after failing at life in Japan.
Butting heads with his recently retired parents and waxing hypocritical as a wine-drinking Mormon, he quickly decides to pork his older, married neighbour, Nina (Fiona Highet), whose resignation to a cheating husband and a less-than-stimulating job match Nicholas's lowered expectations.
And, in case this obvious set-up didn't allow our protagonist to exacerbate a propensity for stupid decisions, there's a 12-year-old adopted kid that grows pot plants thrown into the mix just so we can appreciate the idiosyncratic nature of a child wise beyond his years.
Because all of the characters are seemingly written as cartoonish peculiarities performing oddness without reason or motivation, it's extremely difficult to become invested in their constant confounding struggles. Had things stayed on the side of offbeat comedy, this could be overlooked in light of tone consistency and adjacent reality humour.
But Thorne is intent on making us care about the outcome of these ciphers, regardless of logic or trajectory. We get that Nicholas needs to learn how to assimilate and confront his fears ― by learning how to drive a car ― but since most of his time is spent making inconsistently goofy decisions, there's little room for identification and attachment.
It's all exceedingly awkward to watch, mainly because it's neither funny nor moving, despite trying desperately to be both. (Kinosmith)