Saturday, June 15, 2019

Movie Review: Banana Split

Ben Kasulke shines in his first film, Banana Split
© American High / Burn Later Productions
Hannah Marks wrote a tight, but free-spirited script about friendship.

You might have heard Ben Kasulke’s name over the last few years. He was the cinematographer for such films as Safety Not Guaranteed and Laggies. Kasulke made the transition from cinematographer to director with his new film, Banana Split, which premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year. I had the privilege of viewing this film as part of the Seattle International Film Festival and got to discuss the film with the director as well.

Banana Split is regarded as a coming of age story set over the course of the summer, which is something done many times before. The film offers a twist when April (Hannah Marks) breaks up with her boyfriend of two years, Nick (Dylan Sprouse) and learns that he has moved on quickly. April meets the girl that Nick is now dating and befriends her, despite still having feelings for him. Throughout the summer, April and Clara get to know each other, but vow not to discuss Nick or even let him know that they hanging out with each other.

Hannah Marks, who plays April, wrote this film alongside Joey Power. Together they wrote a tight, but free spirted film about friendship. The film explores that friendship can come in the oddest of places, just like April and Clara’s situation. Marks is hilarious in her role as someone who is insecure, but willing to try new things. She often masks her emotions with humor, which can be both funny and dark. Marks is solid in her role and balances both the writing for the film and the acting very well. With Marks writing the film, she is truly able to understand the character. A lot of the humor from Marks feels improvised, which kept me interested because I was wondering what she would do next.

I was surprised to see Dylan Sprouse as I didn’t know much about who starred in the film. It was nice to see him in something, since his brother Cole has been popping up in movies and television shows lately. He doesn’t appear a lot in the film, but his character is integral to the plot. Whenever he is in the movie, his edgy performance fitted right in with the two main leads and the story.

April was hesitant to meet Clara, who is dating her ex, but once she got to know her after a night of throwing back shots, she learns that she is actually pretty fun and they have a lot in common. Of course, the idea of Clara dating Nick is in the back of April’s mind because she still has feelings for him, but the two always focus on each other, rather than him. Both Marks and Liana Liberato have great chemistry and aren’t afraid to explore different parts of their relationship. They worked well together and I am glad their friendship started instantly instead of it being built up over time.

Banana Split was a film I couldn’t wait to finish. Not because I wanted it to be over but wanted to see how the film ended. Despite the story having a similar premise to other films, it managed to make me laugh and be interested in the story. This is done in the script by Marks and Powers and the relationship between the two ladies. For a first-time director, Kasulke was able to handle the film well and I can’t wait to see more of him in the future.

Check out Justin's interview with director Ben Kasulke.

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