February 25, 2020

Split: Bowling for Debtors

Everyone owes something — usually lots and lots of money — in Choi Kook-hee's diverting bowling dramedy Split. The one-time Wednesday Nights league champeen (Yoo Ji-tae) is constantly racking up debts with his competitively disastrous gutter balls. The alley inheritress a.k.a. Split's spitfire love interest (Son Ye-jin) is saddled with extortion-level interest payments caused by her regretful use of the family business as collateral. Even the movie's quirky, somewhere-on-the-spectrum, potentially future lord-of-the-lanes (an excellent Lee Da-Wit) eventually owes his manipulative patron-funders around $20 for a birthday bus trip to visit the current home of his estranged mother and the mausoleum housing his deceased grandmother (who was quite a bowler herself in the city back in the day).

But by the end, Split also owes us, the audience, a few things, too, like that big important game that could go either way and is finally tipped towards victory thanks to the the young bowler's prowess and unusual methods; a romance-solidifying kiss — doesn't have to be post-coital — between the leading man and his pimping promoter; a scene in which the managress sees how bad life would be working as a hostess at the local coffee bar; a pile of Christmas presents that allow one neglected adult to heal his wounds with some help from Santa; and a drunk scene in which the same young man engages in forbidden behavior. The omission of all these scenes is perplexing because the movie actually feels like its building towards them at different times. Which isn't to say this movie is striking out. More that, it's leaves behind too many lone pins that are the marks of a less-than-perfect score.