Review by Sean Boelman
The directorial debut of Benjamin Kasulke (who previously worked as cinematographer on such indie favorites as Your Sister’s Sister and Safety Not Guaranteed), Banana Split is a quirky new buddy/coming-of-age comedy. Thanks to a funny script and great chemistry between the leads, the film overcomes its traditional plot to be an entertaining watch.
The movie follows two teenagers who form an unexpected friendship over the course of a summer but must keep their friendship secret because one is dating the other’s ex. This is definitely an intriguing premise that offers a tongue-in-cheek approach to genre tropes. There are movies about an ex and a current significant other feuding, or about exes bonding together over their shared experience, but it’s unique to see a film about an ex and the current significant other becoming friends after the fact.
Obviously, a great deal of what makes the movie work is its humor. The script, written by Hannah Marks and Joey Power (After Everything) is very diverse in the types of comedy it uses, ranging from raunchy quips to secondhand embarrassment. There’s something for everyone in the film, but its best scenes are almost certainly the conversations the protagonist has with her family, which offer plenty of laughs.
Marks and Power keep the movie moving, but at times, it does feel a bit rushed. The first ten and last fifteen minutes of the film try to cram in nearly the full emotional arc into that short period of time, which is a bit agitating, but the middle hour is so strong that it makes up for it. The ending, in particular, feels like it was written out of obligation to the formula.
That said, the character development in the movie is mostly strong and allows the audience to have an emotional connection to the film regardless. The unorthodox relationship that develops between the movie’s two leads pushes the film forward. Thankfully, the romantic subplot (while necessary) does not play as big of a role in the movie as is usual for the genre, and as a result, the film feels refreshing.
Marks also plays the lead in the movie and she does a wonderful job of making her character even more believable. Her comedic timing is impeccable, and her chemistry with her co-stars is great. Liana Liberato plays the other half of the film’s main duo, and is very funny as well. Supporting actors include Dylan Sprouse and Jacob Batalon, both of whom give memorable turns even though the spotlight belongs to Marks and Liberato.
On a technical level, the movie is much stronger than is typical for an indie comedy, and that is likely because Kasulke began his career as a cinematographer. Although the film isn’t too ambitious, Kasulke’s visual style is evident enough in the composition and editing of the movie that it’s clear why he decided to step into the director’s chair.
Banana Split is a very funny watch thanks to great acting and a surprisingly refreshing script. With many being shut in right now, this is the perfect type of comedy to take one’s mind off of things, even if just for an hour and a half.
Banana Split hits VOD on March 27.