Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato, Dylan Sprouse, Luke Spencer Roberts, Meagan Kimberly Smith, Haley Ramm, Jessica Hecht, Addison Riecke, Jacob Batalon
Written by: Hannah Marks, Joey Power
Directed by: Benjamin Kasulke
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, drug and alcohol use -- all involving teens
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/27/2020

Banana Split (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

During this time of "shelter-at-home" due to the COVID-19 crisis, Banana Split, a plucky, funny coming-of-age story about an unlikely friendship between two teen girls, is a fine way to pass the time.

In the simple story, brunette misfit April (Hannah Marks) is a high school senior, who has been in a passionate relationship for two years with handsome, long-haired goofball Nick (Dylan Sprouse); he looks like Thor, but has a genuine love for silly pop music, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" in particular.

But unfortunately, they break up, and it's not long before Nick is dating someone new, the blonde, confident Clara (Liana Liberato).

The catch is that April goes to a party where Clara and Nick are also in attendance. The two girls attempt a kind of showdown, looking for some kind of closure, but instead they instantly click, connecting as best friends.

They begin a secret summer friendship, unbeknownst to Nick, although Nick's awkward, ginger-haired best friend Ben (Luke Spencer Roberts) — who introduced Clara to Nick — is miserably let in on the deception.

Cinematographer (Your Sister's Sister, Safety Not Guaranteed) Benjamin Kasulke makes his feature directing debut here, and he finds a warm, laid-back flow, de-emphasizing the "lie plot" and embracing giddy "friendship-building" montages.

Banana Split isn't as consistently sharp and funny as, say, the similarly women-driven Booksmart, but it's just as likable.

The real find here is Marks, who co-wrote the screenplay with her regular collaborator Joey Power (their previous film was After Everything), and stars.

She has a wonderful, powerful presence, her huge, dark eyes incapable of relaying anything false; she recalls the potency of a young Barbra "hello gorgeous" Streisand. She's a huge reason the film works as well as it does.

If nothing else, a viewing of Banana Split will provide bragging rights when Marks becomes a bigger star.

Hopefully that will happen someday when cinemas are open again and things are not so scary. Until then, here's hoping this humble guide helps to entertain and pass the time.

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