Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | March 26th, 2020
Banana Split (Benjamin Kasulke, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
A bubbly, enjoyable romp of an unconventional rom-com, Banana Split follows two young women who strike up a close friendship when the one begins dating the other’s ex-boyfriend. Instead of worrying about how boy and girl meet, fall in-out-in of love and then ride off into the sunset together, the film focuses instead on how its female leads grow close. Though occasionally uneven in its mix of comedy and drama, the film features strong performances from Hannah Marks (Almost Home) – also the co-writer – and Liana Liberato (1 Mile to You), as April and Clara, who exhibit wonderful rapport as they often abandon the man to spend increasing time with each other.
Two years before the end of high school, Los Angelenos April and Nick (Dylan Sprouse, Dismissed) begin dating, quickly becoming a steady item. In a quick opening montage, we watch them go from enamored to bored come graduation time. An unhappy breakup follows, and the summer days before they each go off to college loom long and miserable. What makes it worse for April is the sudden news that Nick is in a relationship again, this time with new arrival Clara (down from Fresno), whose sunny disposition is especially threatening to the glum ex-girlfriend. Much to their surprise, however, the two gals hit it off at a party. Soon they are inseparable, though they choose to keep this fact a secret from the somewhat clueless (perhaps it’s all the pot he smokes) Nick. A true womance is born.
The joy is in the quirky details, since the plot, itself, doesn’t always offer the most scintillating twists and turns. The supporting cast is also strong, with Jessica Hecht (Submission) and Addison Riecke (The Beguiled), as April’s mom and sis, especially delightful in their bickering madness. Luke Spencer Roberts (The Package) also shines playing Nick and April’s mutual friend, Ben, who struggles to be true to both without betraying either. The sharp dialogue coming from Riecke and Roberts, expertly delivered, makes their scenes sparkle.
Though April and Clara’s initial attraction stems from their interest in the same guy, they fast develop an intimacy uniquely their own. It remains unanswered, though, why Clara’s feelings for Nick are unaffected by her near-constant companionship with April. Still, it’s a joy to watch the two actresses hang out and do such simple things as eat a banana split. We’ve had enough bromances in this world; this is a welcome change.