|'the jumps between the types of comedy become wider and wider, and the audiences ability to go along with them thinner and thinner'|
One of Woody Allen's 'early funny ones', Bananas is less a coherent piece of narrative film-making, more a sketch show structured around the loose idea of a common through-line. As Fielding Mellish (Allen) struggles to connect with activist girlfriend Nancy (Louise Lasser), the comedian gives himself the opportunity for all sorts of skit-friendly shorts; from his job as a consumer products tester, to his eventual progression to rebel leader.
As such, Bananas is neither big, running to a light eighty-two minutes, nor particularly clever, finishing most of its setups with a one-liner or piece of slapstick. Witness Mellish's introduction, testing the exercise desk, and his attempts moments later to purchase a pornographic magazine, both pretty much as simple as comedy can get, but well executed by a man on the way to the top.
The increasing problem, as the film progresses, is that the jumps between the types of comedy become wider and wider, and the audiences ability to go along with them thinner and thinner. One moment Mellish and Nancy are engaging in slapstick romantic tomfoolery, the next, the former is on a psychiatrist's couch imagining his own crucifixion. When Harry Met Sally to Monty Python And The Holy Grail in a shorter amount of time than would have previously seemed possible. A late trip to the palace, during which Mellish finds the soundtrack musician in a cupboard, enters Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams territory.
Not that Bananas is empty beyond its intense comedic worth. From very early on, Allen seems to want to establish a critique of the media, which does get somewhat lost as the film progresses but hits home today more than ever. An assassination is filmed and presented as a spectator sport, ditto the final sex scene. It's little surprise that, in a film so full of variety, it is possible to find stinging satire behind the obvious slapstick.