With a sweet runtime of just 84 minutes, this hilarious and poignant high school comedy is the perfect anecdote to soothe those quarantine woes and celebrate the arrival of summer. Banana Split brings in classic ingredients of teen comedy and amplifies it with charismatic performances, all showered with a genuine sense of humor.
The Summer After High School: A Whole Lotta Goodbyes, Secrets and Drama
The summer after high school is the pivotal time of goodbyes and transitions that can bring messy emotions and confrontations. Particularly in the world of April (Hannah Marks, who is also co-writer and an executive producer of the film), it’s a painful, loving, and fun summer all in one. Headed to Boston University in the fall, she’s recently gone through a breakup with her boyfriend of two years, Nick (Dylan Sprouse), and has become best friends with his new girlfriend. No, it’s not out of spite, and no, April doesn’t have some sort of ulterior motive behind this friendship; it’s actually true friendship.
At the beginning of the film, April is hit by a ton of bricks, when she finds that Nick has a new beau, Clara (Liana Liberato), a childhood friend of Nick’s best friend, Ben (Luke Spencer Roberts), through Instagram. Both girls eventually meet at a party and instead of tearing at each other’s faces, they take shots, rap out a Junglepussy song together, and discover that they’re…well, meant for each other. They soon become close friends, having a wild time together in LA and Palm Springs, while hiding their bestie status from Nick, which of course, eventually backfires.
Friendship in the New Romance
Director Benjamin Kasulke, who makes his directorial debut, doesn’t waste time divulging into their relationship (it’s broken down into a five-minute montage) because the real relationship of the story rests on April and Clara. April is a witty gal who isn’t afraid of showing her mixed feelings of rage, pain, and happiness. There’s something incredibly real and comically damaging about her that’s admirable and entertaining. Nothing feels forced or cliché, especially when it comes down to her close friendship with Clara who’s relaxed, cheeky, and just the right person to be April’s “other half”.
Together, both girls are confident, but each carries their own anxieties about the journey after high school. There isn’t any malice between them; their friendship is rooted in genuine kinship and love, and Kasulke does a great job helping audiences really see and feel this.
Delightful Characters & Performances
Teen stories and genres like this are always predictable, yet it’s the characters, performances, and sense of humor that really make Banana Split an indulging piece of work. Kasulke spearheads the teen movie with just the right dose of whimsy, raunchiness, and heart. He instills the film with familiarity but peppers it with refreshing characters who take us on a wickedly fun and kick-ass ride.
Kasulke has displayed his raw eye and talent for capturing indie and mumblecore flicks (most notably with director Lynn Shelton), and they translate well in this comedy. He does a fine job in capturing the comical subtleties that weave throughout the film from both his lead and supporting actors.
Wickedly Sharp Writing from Young and Rising Talent
Marks and Liberato have such great chemistry; their emotional connection is easy yet nuanced that’s just charmingly amusing. It’s hard to stray your attention away from them. Whether it’s taking a spontaneous trip to Palm Springs or coercing their mutual friend, Ben, from exposing their friendship to Nick, they’re no doubt two peas in a pod.
As an actor, co-writer, and executive producer, Marks definitely shows off her creative chops in Banana Split and is certainly a beacon of hope for the future in entertainment. Her writing and performance never feel over the top nor does it bask too much into the angsty lands of anxiety and dread that it gets trite. Marks, and her writing partner, Joey Power, instill a good dose of heart alongside the humor that no matter how far behind high school might be for some audience members, we can still relate to their journey.
Sweet Visuals that Sprinkle the Film with the Right Vibes
The final stages of adolescence is split up by inviting title cards, which countdown the days until college orientation. They have a neon, eighties vibe coupled with a synthy track that not only helps you get moving and grooving to the story but also gets you in touch with the endearing and sassy nature of April and Clara.
It also alludes to the lasting poignancy and love that April and Clara will have for each other through thick and thin. You know sh** is about to hit the fan, because let’s be real, do things actually go right when you’re best friends with your ex-lovers’ new girlfriend? Things get messy, but they smooth out in the best interest of April and Clara’s love for one another—and that’s the truest form of romance.
Strong Supporting Characters Who Are Just the Cherry on the Top
The film also endows us with memorable and likable supporting characters. Marks, Power, and Kasulke give such a great platform for them, who really help bolster and refine the comedy. Roberts does a charming and lovable job of playing Ben who’s reluctantly thrown into the girl’s secret. He’s the perpetual third-wheel who’s desperately trying to get out of the mess and avoid drama at all costs, only to be held back by the duo’s funny threats and his own actions and inhibitions.
April’s little sister, Agnes (Addison Riecke) is a firecracker in the movie, shooting off one-liners like, “So you’re rebounding f**cking?” She’s crude and aggressive in the best possible way, making her a clear standout in the film.
Conclusion: Banana Split
No matter how far past high school people might be, this film will win the affection of many. Simply put, the film is exactly what a banana split is: classically beautiful, delicious, and hard to resist.
What are some of your favorite teen/high school comedies? Let us know in the comments!
Banana Split is currently available on VOD.
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