Lizzie Munro (Corinna May), a Scottish transplant, has a nice salon in an old part of fictional Manningtree, New Jersey. Her problems include a gutless “separated” boyfriend, a bad electrical panel, and eminent domain. Tiny Provenzano (Vincent Pastore) is the mayor who stands to make a fortune when a block of buildings are seized and turned into a shopping mall/condo complex. Many small business owners will be forced to sell, and the neighborhood will be gentrified.
Lizzie’s weak-kneed boyfriend, Len (Beau Baxter), is unwilling to support her fight to save the buildings and is one of the first to sell out. His popular coffee shop is an early casualty. His relationship with Lizzie is next.
Romanced by a new salon customer, Lizzie soon learns that her latest squeeze is actually a consultant with the company behind the new development. “Up your kilt with a banger,” is her parting shot to him, along with a famous New Jersey (via Italia) gesture. The audience heaves a sigh of relief when that split end is removed.
Lizzie manages to get a huge turnout for a council meeting that would normally go unattended (the council’s earlier meetings seem suspiciously like real town council meetings, with the mayor seconding his own motions when no one else speaks up). Hours pass while the council discusses a variety of boring agenda items before the meeting finally addresses the issue everyone has come to hear. Citizen after citizen address the council, speaking out against the project. The mayor tries to cut things short—he has an awful lot to lose—but in true Scottish-American spirit the people, particularly Lizzie, have their say.
Split Ends is an independent film with a heart. Its sense of place (northern New Jersey) is well established, the performances and direction by Dorothy Lyman do justice to a familiar story (the underdog vs. the establishment), and there’s just enough cannoli and coffee to make this Jersey girl homesick. It’s the kind of movie the viewer hopes will have a feel-good ending, although it doesn’t go all the way to highly-unlikelyville to achieve it (well, maybe halfway). The split ends are trimmed, the hair is intact, and it might just be time for a few new highlights.
In addition to the scenic Clifton (and Botany Village) settings, Split Ends charms with traditional Scottish music and even a few moments with a bagpiper. Vincent Pastore gives an accurate portrayal of a certain type of Jersey guy, and Janet Sarno enchants as Aunt Connie Provenzano, the woman with the Hoboken cannoli connection.
Split Ends is a sweet movie—not terribly deep—that gives the viewer a happy conclusion to small vs. big, and dollars vs. cents. Extras include a trailer and photo gallery.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent Split Ends? Rent (or stream); it’s escapist fare that works.