12th Jun2020

Review Round-Up: ‘Banana Split’ & ‘The Year of Spectacular Men’

by Phil Wheat

BANANA SPLIT

Stars: Hannah Marks, Dylan Sprouse, Liana Liberato, Luke Spencer Roberts, Meagan Kimberly Smith, Haley Ramm, Jessica Hecht, Addison Reike, Jacob Batalon | Written by Hannah Marks, Joey Power | Directed by Benjamin Kasulke

April (Hannah Marks) has spent the last two years of high school in a relationship with Nick (Dylan Sprouse), from first frantic make-out session to final tear-stained breakup. In the aimless summer between graduation and college, the newly single April mends her heartbreak by striking up an unexpected friendship with an unlikely candidate: Nick’s new girlfriend, Clara (Liana Liberato).

With an oddball title like Banana Split I was expecting a quirky, just as oddball rom-com. However what you actually get is a touchy tale of two women who should be enemies, after all they’ve both dated and slept with the same guy, but instead find a common bond that leads to a sweet, tender platonic relationship much deeper than they had with the man inter lives.

Co-written and co-produced by actress Hannah Marks who plays April, one half of the love triangle, Banana Split feels real. It feels like Marks’ has experienced everything in her script and then some. She may not have, but the very fact she’s managed to capture that sense of realness is a credit to her script. A script which is realised with a fantastic cast, including one of my favourite young actors Luke Spencer Roberts as Ben – another one of this films characters entangled in the complicated lives of April and Clara.

A film about two strong young women, in the midst of transitioning into college life, finding themselves and each other, Banana Split is out now on VOD from Universal.

THE YEAR OF SPECTACULAR MEN

Stars: Zoey Deutch, Madelyn Deutch, Lea Thompson, Jesse Bradford, Cameron Monaghan, Brandon T. Jackson, Melissa Bolona, Avan Jogia | Written by Madelyn Deutch | Directed by Lea Thompson

The Year of Spectacular Men tells the story of Izzy Klein, a young woman fresh out of college as she strikes up and ruins relationships with several men, and struggles to navigate the failures of post-college adulthood, leaning on her mother and younger, more successful, sister for support.

A real family affair, The Year of Spectacular Men is penned by Madelyn Deutch, who also stars alongside her sister Zoey and her mother Lea Thompson, who also directs this tale; meanwhile her father Howard Deutch (Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful) produces. Which, for the film, means there’s a real sense of intimacy between the characters – moreso than your typical rom-com. But then this isn’t your typical rom-com, writer and star Madelyn Deutch pens this film more like a therapeutical piece, investigating her characters emotions and neuroses through a series of bad relationships.

Speaking of which, Izzy suitors are a veritable who’s who of young actors. The Year of Spectacular Men features the likes of Jesse Bradford (Swimfan), Cameron Monaghan (Gotham), Brandon T. Jackson (Percy Jackson), Zach Roerig (The Vampire Diaries), and Nicholas Braun (Freaks of Nature, Sky High). None of which are the spectacular men of the title – a title which is more ironic than its would at first suggest. Instead these “spectacular” men are mere stop gaps on Izzy’s road to self-realisation and independence.

With a real honesty to the script and the performances, The Year of Spectacular Men is less about the men and more about the women. The familial trio whose chemistry and relationship brings more to the film than a mere performance would. And the sheer candor in both Madelyn Deutch’s script and performance makes this atypical rom-com stand head and shoulders above others of its ilk.

Another fantastic film about strong young women, even if Izzy doesn’t start out that way, The Year of Spectacular Men is out now on VOD from Blue Finch Film Releasing.

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