A romantic comedy with a clever spin, "The Big Split" is an appealing charmer that makes light of hasty weddings and hastier divorces. Unlike higher-profile and costlier projects that promise tingly feelings but don't deliver, "Split" benefits greatly from sincere chemistry, genuinely funny moments and a screenplay that sounds like real life. Auds up for gentle sentiments and some spiked jabs at the dating game will find plenty of both here, but it's a stretch to think that the micro-budgeted, starless story will score at the B.O. if and when it finds a distrib.

A romantic comedy with a clever spin, “The Big Split” is an appealing charmer that makes light of hasty weddings and hastier divorces. Unlike higher-profile and costlier projects that promise tingly feelings but don’t deliver, “Split” benefits greatly from sincere chemistry, genuinely funny moments and a screenplay that sounds like real life. Auds up for gentle sentiments and some spiked jabs at the dating game will find plenty of both here, but it’s a stretch to think that the micro-budgeted, starless story will score at the B.O. if and when it finds a distrib.

“Split” puts a relationship in reverse, tagging along with two people who walk down the aisle, separate and then rediscover each other’s allure. Director-writer Martin Hynes gives a winning turn as an amiable schlemiel who is smitten with the right girl at the wrong time, and, as his sweetheart, Judy Greer is delightfully daffy. Their connection goes a long way toward establishing this as more than just another yuppysomething whinefest.

Hynes is Frank, a wannabe composer who pays the bills as a driving instructor. Greer is Tracy, a documentarian from New York who learns to drive from Frank and marries him after a brief courtship, much to the surprise of their engaged friends (Darryl McCane and Rachel True).

The union gets off to a rocky start when Frank refuses to dance at the reception, but Tracy just shrugs it off to quirkiness. Her peculiarities are a little more serious: After they marry, she won’t sleep in the same bed and cringes when she’s introduced as Frank’s wife. The not-so-happy couple calls it quits after three months, but the regrets linger; both remain unattached, only to realize that they still harbor some fondness. With caution, they reunite.

“Split” earns a lot of points for taking a new approach to a stale genre. While there is nothing particularly deep about the characters or their emotions, the basic idea — newfound devotion springing from a breakup — is a good one, and its execution is endearing.

And the performances are fetching. The gangly Hynes isn’t much of a heartthrob, but his humble intonations and comic timing are infectious. As an actor — and a beau — he’s a perfect match for Greer, whose tomboy rebellion disguises true kindness.

Tyro helmer Hynes also scores with an amusing script full of Woody Allen insecurities told with a fresh voice.

Tech credits are a little rough, but some nifty Hi-8 camerawork and meaningful musical touches are put to good use.

The Big Split

(ROMANTIC COMEDY)

Production

A Kramer/Tornell production in association with Crossroads Films. Produced by Stacy Kramer, Lisa Tornell. Directed, written by Martin Hynes.

Crew

Camera (color), Dino Parks; editor, David Birdsell; music, Tom Hynes; production designer, Mark Hutman; costume designer, Lee Kartis; sound (Dolby), Jonathon August Lee; associate producer, Allison Engel; assistant director, Michael Shea. Reviewed at AFI/L.A. Film Festival, Oct. 23, 1999. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Frank ..... Martin Hynes Tracy ..... Judy Greer Lyle ..... Darryl McCane Jenny ..... Rachel True Tracy's Mom ..... Maggie Baird Lyle's Brother ..... Casey Lee Tracy's Friend ..... Lindsay Price
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