Split (2016) Review

**SPOILER-FREE (and meaningless rambling) REVIEW**

Split (2016)

Directed & Written by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.

My Opinion:

This is one of those movies where I walked out of the cinema not entirely sure how I felt about it. At first, I mainly thought it was just okay. But the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. Now, writing this a day after seeing it, I think my main feeling for Split is disappointment. I didn’t hate it. I certainly didn’t love it. A return to form for M. Night Shyamalan? Possibly. But it’s mainly a return to his ability to make movies I’m really interested in seeing as I love the setups and I do enjoy them when I’m in the middle of watching them but, thinking about them later on, I realize they’re not actually very good films (other than The Sixth Sense, to which I still remain faithful).

I think I feel quite similar about Split as I do The Visit (which I reviewed HERE), although they’re very different. I don’t think either is a horrible film and they’re indeed much better than some of M. Night’s huge stinkers in recent years but both are still extremely flawed, especially in their final acts. Split is probably the “better” film in that it’s played straight with some acting that’s of a higher standard than you expect in the horror genre while The Visit is so over-the-top silly that I’m still convinced it’s a horror comedy despite not being labelled as such. But I think Split has made me like The Visit a fraction more in that the latter was a more enjoyable film to sit through despite its silliness. Let’s face it – M. Night’s ideas are silly. Perhaps he should do them in a more comedic fashion as he did in The Visit?? Split takes itself too seriously. The characters are unlikable whereas those in The Visit are so goofily f*%ked-up that you can’t help but kind of like them. Does that make sense?? I’m rambling. Here are all the Shyamalan films I’ve seen ranked from worst to best according to how much I liked them (including one he only wrote):

Lady In The Water
The Happening
Devil
Split
The Visit
Signs
Unbreakable
The Village
The Sixth Sense

Shut up and talk about the movie, right? You know how hard it is to discuss this dude’s films in a spoiler-free fashion! One thing I’ll say for his movies is this: The majority of them have pretty big name stars and some quality acting despite the horror genre and the often outrageous storylines. I think this has helped to give Shyamalan’s films a bit more credibility than is actually deserved?

As I said, I stand by my opinion that The Sixth Sense is a good piece of filmmaking although people are sometimes negative about it now since the ending is so well known. But everyone involved acted their asses off for that “horror” film (don’t forget that Collette & Osment were up for Acting Oscars as well as Shyamalan for Director & Screenplay and the whole thing for Best Picture!). I don’t think Split’s acting is Oscar calibre but it’s still very good for its kind of film. McAvoy is of course the standout having to play various personalities but I also thought his psychiatrist, Betty Buckley, was very good as was young Anya Taylor-Joy (this is her first film I’ve seen). Oh! And I loved finding out that Betty Buckley was the nice gym teacher in the original Carrie – I didn’t know that until I looked her up just now:

So, bravo to the actors who once again help to elevate an M. Night Shyamalan film. Without them, I think this would be very much in danger of being a bargain bin straight-to-video horror (okay – it’s not straight to “video” anymore, I suppose. Showing my age!). Thanks to the success of The Sixth Sense, I think Shyamalan has been able to continue making films that are just good enough to keep him in the game. I want to like his movies more. I like his ideas but rarely like his execution. I want one of his movies to fully reach its potential (funny, as I do believe this is a line quite often uttered by McAvoy’s character). I also want to stick to my 2017 blog resolution of not writing long, rambling reviews! Let’s wrap this up.

Summary:

Split isn’t horrible and has some very good performances but is as ultimately disappointing overall as I’ve now come to expect from M. Night Shyamalan’s films. I can see why it has a fairly high IMDB user rating so far as this will either be due to a) loyal fans who’ve watched all his films as he has a surprise in store for them OR b) full-on “horror” fans as this is the most straightforward horror film that Shyamalan has made. It’s more straightforward horror than I like, personally, so perhaps that’s partly why I was disappointed. I prefer bizarre & supernatural, which is why I’ve put up with a lot of the silly shit he’s come up with. So, in some ways, I do agree that this film is a better film than a lot of his work but I personally didn’t like it that much.

Also, two things quite bothered me. The main thing was that I didn’t like some of the treatment of the kidnapped teenage girls. Shyamalan mostly makes “PG-13 horror”. That’s its rating in the U.S. but I wouldn’t let a 13-year-old watch this (it’s rated 15 in the UK). Obviously I want to avoid spoilers but there are sexual themes that I don’t think are necessarily handled that well considering the film’s low rating & young-looking actresses. There’s also an implication that two of the girls “deserve” what terrible fate may await them because, I dunno… They’re popular? They don’t come across as really mean girls or anything.

The other thing is more minor but it just annoyed me. There’s an extra bit tacked onto the VERY end of the movie, as the credits have started to roll with the final scene still going, and it feels extremely out of place. This bit should’ve been a mid or end credits scene. This extra bit is for loyal fans and some of you will love it. Half those in my cinema walked out the second the credits started rolling despite the scene clearly still continuing (why the hell do people do that?!) so those type of people clearly don’t care about this small extra bit anyway. Hey, Mr. Shyamalan! Stick something like that halfway through the credits next time to reward those who stick around! (FYI – I rolled my eyes a bit at this tacked-on scene but also admit I kind of like Shyamalan’s obvious future plan…. Why do I never give up on his films?!)

My Rating: 6/10

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016) Review

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

My Opinion:

Yes! Another funny, well-written, smart “teen movie”. I reviewed The DUFF last week, which I really enjoyed despite my teen years being far far behind me, and commented that I hoped more teen movies would go in that direction as I do still enjoy a good one. Trust me – no matter how old you are you never forget high school. It’s a traumatic time! I think I’ll forever feel like it was only yesterday that I finally graduated & escaped that f*^king place.

So, yeah – I wasn’t exactly the Homecoming Queen and I could totally relate to Hailee Steinfeld’s self-loathing, angst-filled, neurotic nutjob in The Edge Of Seventeen. Hubby was like “I think she may be even more messed up than you!”. Hahaha! Nice. Funny. Seriously, though – I’d have been friends with this character as a teen. Okay, I lie – I WAS this character (but not as crazy – Holy shit, Steinfeld’s character is HIGH MAINTENANCE!).

For those who may get annoyed by phoney teen angst movies, don’t automatically avoid this one. This is teen angst done right. It has the right balance of humor & of more serious issues. Think a cross between The DUFF (pure comedy) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic but a little too serious). The characters come across as genuine and I think it will speak to an audience of all ages from 15 or so & up. I do think certain teen films nowadays are written by people my age (like Perks), which is cool as it means people my age end up liking them but I’m not sure if they all work for actual modern teens. I think The Edge Of Seventeen avoids this problem. I can see a lot of friends my age liking this and, judging by the laughs & reactions of the much younger crowd in my cinema who made me feel very old, the younger generation seemed to be enjoying it a lot as well. I can find very little information on this film’s writer & director, Kelly Fremon Craig, but I’d hazard a guess that she’s written a bit of herself into these characters? I could be wrong but writing from experience often seems to make the most believable characters & she’s done an excellent job here. I’ll happily watch more of her work! Hopefully the positive buzz from this film is getting her noticed.

Just a quick FYI: the language & situations make this one not suitable for pre & early teens. It’s rated 15 in the UK and I think it’s rated R in the US?? Typical uptight America – R is too strict for this & means that 15 & 16 year-olds are missing out on a good movie. Maybe they should’ve added some guns & violence as opposed to swearing & sex talk, huh? Then it would be rated G in America! I’ve often thought the American rating system needs a rating in the middle, like a UK 15, which I think is the right sort of rating for this one. Sorry for the mini-rant… 😉 Back to the movie!

Besides Hailee Steinfeld’s darkly humorous unhappy teen, we have her parents and a very rocky relationship with her mother, her best friend who suddenly starts dating her attractive & popular brother who gets on her nerves, her crush, her teacher, and a boy who has a crush on her. They’re all great but the two stand-outs are Hayden Szeto as the adorably awkward boy with a crush on her and Woody Harrelson as the doesn’t-give-a-fuck teacher she confides in (probably due to seeing a bit of her own pessimistic attitude in him).

The chemistry between Steinfeld’s & Harrelson’s characters is great and I loved their complexity. There’s no sappy “teacher gives student meaningful life lesson” bullshit going on here. In fact, they speak quite horribly to each other & it’s hilarious. You can tell that, despite clearly thinking she’s a pain in the ass, Harrelson’s character also has a huge soft spot for this fucked-up kid. Both of these characters are two of the absolute best I’ve seen in a film this year and are why this shouldn’t be dismissed due to being a “teen movie”. Oh, and Hayden Szeto’s character with a crush on Steinfeld is probably the most likable character in a film this year. He’s hilariously, awkwardly adorable. Who is this guy?? He’s been in hardly anything! Put him in more movies! I’d have totally loved having a boy like him have a crush on me in high school. Damn you, Steinfeld – he’s a sweetheart. Date him! It’s like Molly Ringwald not wanting Jon Cryer in Pretty In Pink! Man, teenage girls are idiots sometimes. Anyway – Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, and Hailee Steinfeld are all amazing in this but probably won’t get recognition due to the film being part of the teen genre.

Summary:

I’ve rambled on about this movie long enough. I’ve realized now that my saying this is something in between The DUFF & The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn’t quite accurate. The Edge Of Seventeen is more like The Way Way Back with a girl instead of a boy as the central character & Harrelson filling the Sam Rockwell role in this one (their characters are quite different personality-wise but equally fantastic). I feel that teen movies get dismissed, especially if a girl is the central character, but this movie deserves recognition. If you liked The Way Way Back (I loved that one), you should like this one as well no matter what age or sex you are. Movies like these give me hope that maybe some modern teenagers will turn out alright after all & I appreciate filmmakers who credit them with some intelligence & don’t dumb their movies down for them. I still remember being a teen & I like to think I wasn’t a total idiot. And anyone who says they didn’t have a hard time in high school is a liar. Teen angst is real, people! I’m happy to say that The Edge Of Seventeen handles the angst in a realistic, humorous, and at times heartbreaking fashion.

My Rating: 8/10

You know I gotta end this with the brilliant Stevie Nicks song from my own teen years, which is not in this movie whatsoever. Wait – I wasn’t a teen yet when this was released… I just added several years onto my age there! Oops. Whatever. I love this song. 🙂