FILM TAKES A CUP OF JOE
Film Review by Fiore
First, let me preface this review by saying I enjoy the films of M. Night Shyamalan. I think he uses misdirection better than any other director; which is ironic since his latest film, SPLIT, offers the least misdirection of all his works. Shyamalan isn’t as prolific as John Woo, Robert Rodriguez, Tim Burton or John Carpenter, but even those notable directors have released a few dog and pony shows during their careers. I find Shyamalan’s films are often best reflected upon after a good night’s rest and a morning cup of coffee.
That said, as I sit here sipping my coffee after watching SPLIT last night, I can tell you SPLIT is a solid thriller and can rank just behind some of Shyamalan’s best. The film offers a few chills, a few thrills, a slight lean toward the supernatural and a powerful performance by James McAvoy.
This entire film centers on McAvoy. After wallowing in those insipid X-MEN movies for far too long, McAvoy had to be ecstatic when presented with this role. He was not the first choice. Originally, Joaquim Phoenix was slated to star. The sudden change for top billing went largely unheralded, but my sources say Phoenix wasn’t able to pull off the characters in early screen tests. Whatever the reason, McAvoy shines and his performance provides cohesiveness when the film falters.
Normally, I’m not a fan of movies about folk with split personalities. I realize the condition is genuine, but these people are just too bizarre and tend to set off my caution yellow flag meters. I imagine that holds for any man who has been married for more than twenty years.
SPLIT begins with the conclusion of a high school birthday party. Claire and Marcia, best friends, are the last to leave. Also reluctant to have the party end is outsider Casey. Casey was invited because Claire did not want her to be the only person not receiving an invitation. As things turn, the girls’ very survival will depend on the traits Casey develops in her solitude.
While leaving the party, they are hijacked and kidnapped by Kevin, who is not just Kevin, but 23 other people lurking in a mind on the dark side of the moon. McAvoy is Kevin, and all his alter egos. Haley Lu Richardson (not sure if this qualifies for a three name person) is Claire, Jessica Sula is Marcia and Anya Taylor-Joy (yes, this one definitely does) is Casey. Also in the cast is Becky Buckley as Dr. Karen Fletcher, Kevin’s psychiatrist.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. EMERGENCE OF THE BEAST
2. VISIT TO HEDWIG’S ROOM
3. CONCLUDING DINER SCENE
We’ll blame Editor Luke Ciarrocchi for making SPLIT a tad too long. After Kevin’s multiple personalities are established, the story can move on, but Ciarrocchi opts to drag the set-up on for more scenes than necessary. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis presents SPLIT in a vein like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS; very dark, and foggy. Of course, like most Shyamalan films, it was filmed in Philadelphia, so that just could be natural.
As with most of Shyamalan’s scripts, this one contains too many subplots. It is essential we learn of the relationship between Casey and her father, and her interest in hunting. The added subplot of her uncle is a bit much and has relevance more as a social commentary, allowing for a cheesy escape segment.
While sitting in the last row, reserved for critics at last night’s screening, I seemed to be the only one who garnered any entertainment value out of this endeavor. Perhaps that is understandable, as no one else in this profession has my keen insight nor savvy into the art of filmmaking. So, as you read questionable reviews by my condescending colleagues in the two-letter cities, know that I found SPLIT quite enjoyable. Let it simmer for a while after viewing, and I think you will, also.
THE GRADE FOR SPLIT = B.