The slickly aesthetic and surprisingly heartfelt Banana Split is a stellar follow-up to the writer, director, and actress Hannah Marks’ first feature After Everything. It has a lot to say about love, friendship, and coming of age, and comes in a snarky but bubblegum-pop package. (GPG: 5/5).
Review by Contributing Editor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
The summer before college is hectic enough without breaking up with your boyfriend, and that’s hectic enough without becoming best friends with your boyfriend’s new girlfriend! That’s just what “April” (Hannah Marks) ends up doing in Banana Split, a caustic but ultimately sweet comedy about modern love and friendship. At the beginning of the film, we watch April go through a whole epic high school love story with “Nick” (Dylan Sprouse), but then they break up shortly after getting into a petty fight during their prom pictures. Afterward, April begins stalking “Clara” (Liana Liberato) through her friend’s Instagram account (Clara’s account is set to private and she doesn’t want Clara to know that she’s interested in her ex’s new girlfriend). But then this typical tale of jealousy gets turned on its head when the two start hanging out and becoming closer to each other than either of them ever was to Nick.
The dynamic between April and Clara is the emotional core of this movie, and it’s more than capable of bearing that weight. We wonder what either girl is really getting out of her attachment to Nick after we see how April pushes Clara to apply for cooking school, and how Clara shows up to April’s summer job to spring her for a day at the beach. Tellingly, Dylan Sprouse’s part in this movie is pretty small, since the whole story is about how these two girls bond after being brought together by something that usually drives women apart. It’s almost like each of them is cheating on Nick with each other, since Nick is more the person coming between them than either of them is coming between the other and Nick.
One thing I want to note about April and Clara’s relationship is that Hannah Marks has managed to write a modern friendship’s Internet aspect exceptionally well in this script. The inside jokes they have over text, like where Clara calls April “Brad Pitt” (watch the movie to find out why), are the kind of jokes that I actually believe two teenagers could have. They’re not particularly clever, which is exactly why they’re the kind of jokes that real people would make. Ditto to the ways they rib each other when they’re together; these two girls are smart and witty, but you don’t feel like every one of their lines has been focus-grouped and punched-up by a room full of writers. It just feels like two people.
In the end, the movie shows itself to be a true love story, but obviously I’m not going to tell you how it ends. Basically though, if you liked American Graffiti and want a feminist version of that, you’re going to be very happy with Banana Split. Considering Hannah Marks starred in and wrote this film, she’s clearly someone to watch.
© Giorgi Plys-Garzotto FF2 Media (4/2/20)
Does Banana Split pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
With flying colors! Whether they’re doing acid on the dunes or coming up with some of the funniest movie in-jokes I’ve ever seen, April and Clara are constantly talking to each other, and rarely do they talk about the man the movie is supposedly all about.
Middle Photo: April lies in bed after the break-up.
Bottom Photo: April and Clara threaten a friend of theirs. Jokingly.
Photo Credit: American High.