Review: ‘Banana Split’ is the Chicks Before Dicks Movie You Need in Your Life

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We’ve all seen our share of high school romances play out onscreen, so the opening of Banana Split (which premiered at the LA Film Festival in September) feels like familiar ground. April (Hannah Marks) and Nick (Dylan Sprouse) fall in love to the sound of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Then they fall out of live – fighting at prom and ultimately breaking up just after graduation, sobbing in each other’s arms while still wearing their gowns and facing down a future at colleges on opposite sides of the country. In many other movies, that would be the whole story. In Banana Split, it’s the first five minutes.

The end of Nick and April’s relationship is the beginning of a much more interesting movie – an unlikely love story between two best friends. Still reeling from her breakup, April runs into the last person she wants to see at a summer party: Clara (Liana Liberato), who is new to town and has started dating Nick. Though April wants and expects to hate Clara, the two form an inexplicable and immediate bond. The two girls begin hanging out behind Nick’s back, with their other friend Ben caught in the middle. Complicating matters further? Nick and April still have feelings for each other. Everyone has secrets, everyone feels like the third wheel, and the group dynamic gets very complicated (to say the least) as they try to navigate their last few weeks together before leaving town.

 

Banana Split was co-written by Hannah Marks and Joey Power, and is the feature directorial debut from Benjamin Kasulke. While the story may seem unconventional, it’s very much grounded in reality: the plot is based on Marks’ own experience, and Marks and Liberato have been close friends since they were kids. The dynamic between the two girls is magnetic and really captures the experience of falling in love with a best friend. Their connection is intense, bringing out moments of hilarity and heart in turn. April and Clara really get each other, from their complementary quirks to finishing each other’s sentences at times.

Marks’ performance in particular is a highlight throughout the film, bringing deadpan charm but also capturing the sadness of heartbreak. Beyond the relationship between April and Clara, April’s character in and of itself feels like the truest thing in the film. On the other hand, Clara’s character can fall a little flat or feel simplistic outside of the scenes she shares with April. And while Dylan Sprouse is charming as Nick, his character is much less interesting and well-defined than the two girls. But hey, the best part of a banana split isn’t the banana.

Banana Split is a really enjoyable movie that feels true to the millennial experience and honors the power of BFFs. There are fantastic moments of comedy and also more grounded and emotional moments that land well. It’s not a perfect coming of age movie, but it’s a fresh take that is well worth the watch.

If you missed our interview with the cast of Banana Split, check it out here.

Imagery Courtesy of AMERICAN INDIE.




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