February 25, 2019

SCREEN | 'Banana Split' Makes Friends x JFL NorthWest

"It's still icy as f*ck in here."
Hannah Marks Liana Liberato Benjamin Kasulke | Banana Split | Vancouver Just for Laughs Film Festival 2019

Longtime cinematographer turned director Benjamin Kasulke makes his feature debut in the refreshing post-high school set, teen romantic comedy, Banana Split. Starring Hannah Marks (also a co-writer) and Liana Liberato as April and Clara, a heartbroken recent high school graduate and her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, the film is essentially a platonic love story between two young women who become unlikely best friends the summer before going away to college.

Co-written by Marks and Joey Power, the script refreshingly dispatches with the common gender roles that riddle most teen relationship comedies. Banana Split, initially problematically titled "Eskimo Sisters", tries to rewrite the rules of common rom-coms in baking the expected insecurities of women right into its offbeat premise and sidestepping most conventions like the usual misunderstandings, meet-cutes, and convenient stock characters.

We are so quickly invested in the leading characters' fraught friendship based on jealousy, heartache, and deception despite its clear flaws thanks to Marks and Liberato's sparkling chemistry as non-sexual lovers. It's such an entertaining portrait of how young female relationships overcome typical obstacles before blowing up due to expected situational immaturity.

Hannah Marks Liana Liberato Benjamin Kasulke | Banana Split | Vancouver Just for Laughs Film Festival 2019

A long-haired and disaffected yet dreamy Dylan Sprouse co-stars as the former and current lover of the leading women and serves almost as a sort of cypher supporting romantic character. His Nick acts like a memory, mostly in montages, and floats in and out of the girls' lives as the sexual object of their mutual affection.

Simply put, the film could have easily been about the girls' fast, accidental friendship being predictably torn apart by a boy they both like. Instead, it explores the complex feelings young lovers face as they grow apart, have different experiences, and what it does to their longheld personal histories.

Resting on the affable central performance of Marks and her comradery with Liberato is what makes the film so appealing and fun. Banana Split both embraces and avoids the usual highs and lows of teen rom-com hallmarks to be a fully engrossing relationship comedy squarely about compelling teenage girls with some boys involved.

Banana Split screened at the 2019 Vancouver Just for Laughs Film Festival at Vancity Theatre for JFL NorthWest with producers Jeremy Garelick, Michael Schade, and Will Phelps in attendance.


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