Saturday, March 25, 2017

M. Night Shyamalan’s Silence of the Fight Club, or Thoughts on Split

Three teen girls, two popular mean ones and an outcast are abducted in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split (2016), and the ease at which James McAvoy kidnaps them is both terrifying and frustrating.  The movie is carried by the performances of James McAvoy as Kevin, a kidnapper with 23 personalities, and Anya Taylor-Joy, Thomasina from The Witch (2015) and the genetic mutant 5-year-old super soldier in Morgan (2016), as Casey, the outcast/loner and also the girl with the best chances for survival, given her particular skill set, which is told in flashbacks.
Kevin’s personalities include Hedwig, a 9 year-old boy, Barry, a gay man, Dennis, the OCD predator who actually kidnapped the girls and Miss Patricia, the English maternal figure who along with Dennis, dominate the multiples all living in Kevin’s head.  Atmospheric, stylish and thoughtful, Split almost makes up for The Village (2004) and The Happening (2008) and also features a particularly heart-breaking twist; far more sensitive and poignant than his previous films, though completely overshadowed by a superfluous and distracting science fiction/supernatural/Jekyll & Hyde element.
Watch out for Broadway star Betty Buckley, Grizabella from Cats (1982) and Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard (1994) as Dr. Fletcher, Kevin’s psychiatrist.  There’s also a cameo by M. Night Shyamalan, but the less we compare him to Alfred Hitchcock, the better.
Split is highly recommended and certainly my favorite of M. Night Shyamalan’s movies, however this is the movie he should have made after The Sixth Sense (1999).  Instead he made Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), The Village (2004), Lady in the Water, (2006), The Happening (2008), The Last Airbender (2010), and After Earth (2013).  That's over a decade of big budget disappointments and confusing fiascos. The fact that his latest movie is an outlier and happens to be good needs to be measured against his entire body of work.  Compared with 2015’s The Visit, it seems that if he keeps his scope small and focuses on kids he can tell an effective story. It’s only when the director attempts to invent a whole new mythology or comment on humanity as a whole that he goes off the rails.  But after two good movies he’s due for an overambitious and hubristic spectacle, we’ll see what happens.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).