Banana Split Movie Review
An amusing directorial debut for Benjamin Kasulke, Banana Split is a tasty teen comedy about a teenager named April (Hannah Marks) who befriends Clara (Liana Liberato) over their final summer before college. The hook: Clara is dating April’s ex-boyfriend.
Romantic comedies that rely on such character/relationship dynamics typically don’t work all that well—the Big Lie has been done so many times in other movies, and unreliably so, it’s hard to buy into characters who are willing to deceive others for much of the runtime only to be rewarded for their unrealistic lies at the end (Sierra Burgess is a Loser the most recent example).
What separates Banana Split from other, similar comedies is that Kusulke and screenwriters Hannah Marks and Joey Power go in a different direction: there is no Big Lie even though the other dynamics are maintained. April and Clara are well aware of each other’s relationship to the man in or formerly in their lives, but they like each other anyway and run with it.
It’s a refreshing spin with a feminist slant—two women tied to the same guy don’t have to hate each other. Marks carries the film with earnest, her character decisions realistic and believable. She and Liberato have great chemistry together, the two injecting a level of energy into the production that probably, or at least oh so easily, could have slipped into generic indie comedy territory.
Banana Split isn’t groundbreaking cinema, but it’s a solid debut for Kusulke and an entertaining experience for anyone willing to devote an hour and a half to this hidden gem.
The movie was screened at the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF).
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.