Raunchy yet beautifully real and funny, this scrappy indie movie says something about female friendships that those on the inside already know: They can be every bit as heady as falling in love. The basic plot description makes Banana Split sound like it must be another tedious movie in which women clash over a man -- but, refreshingly, Nick is a bit of a cipher instead of a center point. He shows up briefly to cause complications at parties, to serve as an object for both Clara and April to long for, and once, hilariously, to hump April underneath a blanket on the beach. It's not that Sprouse (yes, the twin brother of that guy from Riverdale, both formerly of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody) isn't good. He is -- he's as magnetic as his brother, and his sweet scenes with both April and Clara ring true. It's more that the focus isn't on him: It's on the two women in his life and the friendship palace they're building together.
Make no mistake: Marks and Liberato have the best chemistry in the movie, and Banana Split frames their growing friendship as an overwhelming romance. In one scene, Clara shows up at the movie theater April works for to pick her up for an evening out, and the two impulsively drive to Palm Springs, get a hotel room, and buy LSD from the hotel's maintenance man. After a long night of swirling colors, they wind up in bed together, with Clara tracing the blue veins in April's arms. There's tension in the air: Are they about to kiss? No. The scene peaks as each looks deeply into each other's eyes to confess "You're my best friend," a declaration of love more profound and touching than 99.99% of movie sex scenes. Banana Split isn't flawless -- at 27, 26, and 24, respectively, Sprouse, Marks, and Liberato all look too old to be teens. And April's profane and precocious tween sister, Agnes (Addison Riecke), is terribly grating. But as a portrait of the transcendent joy of finding a new friend you love who loves you right back, it's absolutely aces.