Michael Ward on Friday, May 17
Though she has a long list of television work and indie movie roles to her credit, take a moment and scribble down the name Hannah Marks. Most will recognize her from television appearances on “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, “Necessary Roughness”, or a stint on “You’re The Worst,” but Marks gives a tremendous breakout performance in Banana Split, a dramedy about two girls who become best friends in the summer before they depart for college.
The friendship of April (Marks) and Clara (Liana Liberato) is borne out of uncomfortable circumstances. After dating Nick (Dylan Sprouse) for over a year, he and April break up with college acceptance letters from two different ends of the country being a hill too large to overcome. Nick subsequently pivots to Clara rather quickly. As a result, and while feeling completely decimated, she meets Clara at a party and they become immediate BFFs.
Keeping this hidden from Nick is at first a challenge, but quickly becomes the norm as the two become largely inseparable…when Clara is not with Nick. Nick’s best friend Ben (Luke Spencer Roberts) tries to stay out of things, but eventually gets roped into the charade and Marks’ script, co-written with collaborator Joey Power, is smart, focused, and appropriately scattershot.
While the film does mine some familiar ground, Marks’ performance is aces, her chemistry with Clara tangible and real. Director Benjamin Kasulke is a collaborator with Marks in the past, and this triad of friends and colleagues coming together on the film makes it feel in sync and efficient.
If there is one deficiency, Sprouse plays Nick somewhat too jaded and disconnected from the tone of the rest of the film. At times, it becomes difficult to believe that April or Clara would ever fall for Nick and that hampers some of the film’s credibility when conflict inevitably erupts around the tenuous friendship the girls have built for themselves.
However, for a spirited, hilarious, and thoughtful look at transitioning from teenage years to adulthood, the uncertainty of stepping out into the world on your own, and the loyalty needed in friendships and support, Banana Split gets a lot of things right.
And Hannah Marks, as actor and writer, establishes herself as much more than someone effective in the ensemble. Her emergence as a lead actor shows a bright future and great promise for what may be hopefully coming her way in the future.
Banana Split is playing May 18, May 19, and May 23 as part of the 2019 Seattle International Film Festival.
(Purchase tickets now)