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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Banana Split is a smart, funny, realistic -- but very raunchy -- comedy about two teen girls (Hannah Marks) and Liana Liberato) who become friends even though one is dating the other's ex-boyfriend. Teen characters drink heavily at parties (sometimes doing shots) and then act sloppy and reckless. In one scene, a teen character throws up in a toilet. Teens also share vape pens, joints, pot-laced cookies, and bongs. Two characters buy LSD and have an uneventful (if colorful) night. At least characters do make a point of not driving after partying. Sexual content is also frequent and mature, with passionate kissing, sex under blankets (no nudity), and lots of explicit talk, including graphic terms for intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, and same-sex coupling. A tween character makes many sexual comments. Men are seen nude from the front, with just their hands covering their genitals. Teen girls are confident about their sexuality and what they want. Language is extremely strong, including "f--k," "f--king," "motherf----r," "s--t," "a--hole," "damn," "bitches" and lots of terms for body parts: "d--k," "t-tties," etc. A girl is called a "slut." Despite all the iffy behavior, messages about friendship, kindness, fairness, and thoughtfulness shine through, with characters who make mistakes yet find a way to put things right in the end.
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What's the story?
It doesn't exactly make sense for BANANA SPLIT's April (Hannah Marks) and Clara (Liana Liberato) to be friends. After all, Clara is dating April's ex, Nick (Dylan Sprouse), for whom April still has very complicated feelings. But when April and Clara meet up at a party, they find out that they actually really like each other -- maybe even more than they like Nick. But to keep complications to a minimum, they decide they should keep their hangouts secret. As the moments until Nick and April leave for college tick by, the risk of being found out grows. Will jealousy and uncertainty destroy what's rapidly becoming a beautiful friendship?
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
How is sex depicted? Do you think the graphic sex talk is meant to be realistic or shocking? What's the difference? What values are imparted?
The movie seems to be saying that a little fun mixed with responsibility is OK. Do you agree? What are the arguments for or against that perspective? Are April and Clara role models? Why or why not?
Are the adults in the movie realistic? Are they silly or ridiculous? How do they relate to teens? Do they listen?
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2020
- Cast: Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato, Dylan Sprouse
- Director: Benjamin Kasulke
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship, High School
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: crude sexual content and language throughout, drug and alcohol use -- all involving teens
- Last updated: April 9, 2020
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