Banana Split a confident Teen Comedy that’s sure to win over fans and non-fans of the genre
Teen Movies are a dime a dozen. Most of them are insincere, glib, dribble that finds a condensing tone that not only doesn’t speak to the teens they’re aiming for but doesn’t aim at anyone. The level of snark in some of these entries is amazing. So when you find one with the kind of understanding that kids truly are somewhere between R-Rated to PG-13 its a minor miracle. Banana Split is one of those minor miracles, letting kids do what kids do, which is to make ill-advised decisions.
April (Hannah Marks), Clara (Liana Liberato), and Nick (Dylan Sprouse) have a fairly complicated relationship. April and Nick, high school sweethearts, have recently broken up. Clara and Nick have started dating or fucking depending on which one you talk to. April despondent and unable to know boundaries has started a “secret friendship” with Clara. Clara unable to know boundaries is okay with the “secret friendship”. As one can guess this cannot end well. It doesn’t as with all post-High School, pre-College decisions over that Summer before they all head off for the Freshman Fall Semester.
The feature directorial debut from Benjamin Kasulke works because in large part of the cast and the knowing, witty script by Hannah Marks and Joey Power. We have seen High School Love Triangles. We have seen High School Friendship stories. Rather than man this about the man in-between Marks and Power’s script focuses on the friendship between these two smart young women. Most stories would up the ante on the competition or rivalry between April and Clara, smartly this never happens. Rather the story develops this friendship that should have never happened but evolves naturally.
Hannah Marks and Liana Liberato are wonderfully charming as the dynamic duo that is April and Clara. Marks is a natural comedic performer with her rhythm and timing on point. As April, Marks makes the sort of awkward in her own skin archetype into a warm inviting performance that’s a preview of the work that should get her more and more work. Liberato as Clara also could have been just another in a long line of the beautiful but vacant “other” girl. The writing and the actresses own smart performance takes that cliche and throws it out the window. The actress finds a confidence and grace without the sort of other-girlfriend villain mode that typifies this type of role.
Though many will want to steer their teens away from the film because of the frank views and discussions of sex, drugs, and alcohol use all being causally done and shown. At the core though Banana Split‘s view on these things are like any other R-Rated Comedy. They are portraying them as they are in life. Many including teens will find this sort of casualness actually refreshing as they are not story points or PSAs rather showing how teenagers talk and act.
The film never finds itself in some sort of formulaic cliched storyline of mixed identities or pledges to loose virginity. Rather Banana Split is about friendships, romance and how its all very confusing when your eighteen, made all the more strange with the ticking clock of leaving for an Out-of-State University. Banana Splits is as sincere, honest, heartfelt and funny a teen comedy you’ll see this year.