WHAT has YOUR teenager been doing during Lockdown? I’m asking, because prodigious US talent Hannah Marks was just 19 when she first wrote this romcom — and now she stars in and produces it too.
Banana Split zooms off with one of the snappiest opening montages since Up. As the intro credits roll, an entire, two-year, high school senior romance is hilariously played out from first kiss to teary, pre-college breakup.
April (Marks) and Nick (former teen Disney heartthrob Dylan Sprouse) never seem like the ideal fit – he’s a surfer-dude stoner and she’s a sharp-tongued vegan emo who works part time in a cinema, refusing to sell customers hotdogs because ‘the smell of your pig parts is going to ruin the cinematic experience for everyone’. But when Nick moves on, April unexpectedly finds her perfect match: his new girlfriend Clara (Liana Liberato).
Bucking societal (and movie) expectations, the two girls forge a secret BBF pact with two unbreakable rules: ‘Don’t talk about Nick’ and ‘Don’t tell Nick’. But can they really remain friends when Clara is still seeing Nick and April is, like, so not over him?
Despite obvious chemistry between Marks and Liberato, their friendship remains purely platonic. As such it recalls Booksmart, another recent, and superior, ‘sisters before misters’ spin on the romcom. Admittedly Banana Split doesn’t reach Booksmart’s Bafta-nominated level, but it still boasts a certain spiky originality.
A directorial debut for cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke, it’s yummy to look at, but it’s Marks who’s the real one to watch here. Recently named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Hollywood, this is her second feature screenplay following her 2018 comedy, After Everything.
What truly zings about Banana Split, though, is that it’s a Gen Z romcom actually written by a teenager, with all those accompanying imperfections. That and its ending totally hits the sweet spot.
■ Available on digital download from June 8