Banana Split (3 stars)

Banana Split

Colourful teen comedy that favours friendship over romance, co-written by and starring Hannah Marks

An improbable friendship is the focus of this colourful confection from director Benjamin Kasulke, a vividly drawn yet narratively slight exploration of adolescents on the cusp of adulthood. The second screenplay from star Hannah Marks and co-writer Joey Power (following After Everything, which they also directed) mines some truths about the teen experience, but the strong performances are not quite enough to paper the cracks in this thinly-stretched comedy.

Marks gives herself the plum role of April, an 18-year-old high school senior whose boyfriend of two years, Nick (Dylan Sprouse), dumps her before they go off to different colleges. Distraught, April is shocked to bump into Nick's new girlfriend Clara (Liana Liberato) at a party, only for the two girls to hit it off and (very) quickly become firm friends. But with both hiding strong feelings for Nick, loyalties are soon put to the test.

While anyone who has had a ride-or-die BFF will recognise the strength of Clara and April's bond – even if some moments, such as their Palm Springs acid trip, stray dangerously close to manic pixie dream girl territory – their poise and confidence will likely be alien to those who remember their own gawky teenage years. That's perhaps because both Marks and Liberato are well into their twenties and, at times, the screenplay reads like an adult's wish-fulfilment version of adolescence. There's also not quite enough story here to fill the tight running time, and there's plenty of padding and repetition, particularly in the film's mid-section.

That being said, there is much satisfaction to be found in watching a female friendship painted in such detailed strokes, and seeing that deep emotional bond exist above and beyond any romantic entanglements. And the film looks absolutely gorgeous, as cinematographer Darin Moran drinks in the vibrant colours of the sun-drenched California landscape to the suitably riotous tones of a punky soundtrack, featuring the likes of Kishi Bashi, X-Ray Spex and Junglepussy.

Available to watch on demand from Mon 8 Jun.

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