2018 Los Angeles Film Festival
Directed by Ben Kasulke [Humpday (2009)], Banana Split (2018) is an instant classic reminiscent of the best of the John Hughes canon from the 1980s. It’s a visually engaging end of summer confection that isn’t all sweetness.
With a focus on female friendship, a quartet of Los Angeles area high school pals look toward summer’s end and going their separate ways. There are scores to settle and unresolved issues. In that way similar to American Graffiti (1973), the George Lucas classic was a 1960s nostalgia piece while Banana Split lives completely in the technology driven now.
Dark haired April (Hannah Marks) works in a movie theater where she refuses to sell a hot dog to a patron because of its meat content. Her chubby manager has a crush so she isn’t immediately fired, but she’s on thin ice, needing work on “personal growth.” She pines for her ex, hirsute dream boat Nick (Dylan Sprouse). Through the Instagram grapevine, she learns of his new flame Clara (Liana Liberato).
At a party, rivals April and Clara have a showdown. Will they stay bitter enemies or become best friends, possibly something more? They bond over rap, in a rousing musical sequence. Further complicating the situation is April and Nick’s freckle faced best friend Ben (Luke Spencer Roberts). Usually the mediator between them, he’s looking to make a move himself before it’s too late.
Lead actress Marks co-wrote the rollicking screenplay with Joey Power which presents a credible, if heightened, portrait of contemporary youth.
Shot mostly in Syracuse during a winter storm by Darin Moran, with some Los Angeles exteriors, it still feels like summer. Kasulke and his crew took pains to avoid exploitation and a voyeuristic lens.
For inspiration, he mentioned Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) as a favorite. Amy Heckerling [Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)] whom he’s worked with, is another strong influence.