The strangest thing about writer/director Allison Powell's feature filmmaking debut Banging Lanie may very well be the fact that it's not nearly as edgy or particularly raunchy as you're thinking it may be.
To be honest, that's kind of the point.
Banging Lanie is a surprisingly ambitious film starring, written, and directed by the equally ambitious Powell, whose Lanie is adorably socially awkward and more booksmart than gifted with anything resembling an interpersonal skill. She's rather content this way as she nears her dream of attending MIT and works toward a scholarship that will fund it all - until that same education that's guiding her life hits her smack in the face with the fact that she's a socially inept virgin and sex is, according to Maslow, an actual basic need of humanity.
She's human. So, I guess that means she's supposed to need it.
When I say that Banging Lanie is an ambitious film, I should probably note that I'm not referring to its technical prowess or even its original storytelling. Truthfully, while Powell's story is engaging it's also familiar. In this case, ambition refers more to the fact that underneath its hyper-sexualized exterior lies a beating heart and a refreshing humanity that wants us all to know that we're not alone. It's about sex, at least to a certain degree, but it's also about connection and meaning and belonging. It's a teen rom-com for sure, but it's through the female lens and it's acutely aware that for a good majority of us that desire for sex is actually a desire for a whole lot more.
If, as I've done, you've read anything about Allison Powell before you sat down with her film, then you've likely realized she's both nothing like Lanie and, perhaps, everything like Lanie all in one.
In fact, so was I when I was that age.
Transplanting herself from North Carolina to California, Powell has quickly gained a reputation for investing in herself and others in terms of creative projects, short films, and now a feature film. She's an avid runner who is noted as having recently completed her first 50k trail run.
Trust me, that's NOT Lanie. Well, unless she can turn it into a scientific experiment.
Another big truth here is that you'll likely find yourself drawn to Lanie, a slightly irritating yet likable young woman just trying to figure herself and life out. Powell infuses Lanie with more substance than you may expect here, but what's even more refreshing is that the supporting players are given the same treatment. As the object of Lanie's obligatory affection, Damien Alonso shines as Jordan, whose motivations are never completely clear but who never slides into the complete caricature we're kind of expecting. There's even a gay best friend here, Steven (George Whitaker), whose presence is a breath of fresh air.
Banging Lanie may not necessarily cover any new territory, but it's a light, refreshing, and meaningful comedy with a solid ensemble cast and an engaging story brought nicely to life by Powell in her feature directorial debut. While you may be expecting more frivolity from a film called Banging Lanie, if you're paying close enough attention it'll all make sense by film's end. Picked up by indie distributor Indie Rights, Banging Lanie is available through most of your streaming and VOD outlets or you can click on the "Watch This Film" link in the credits to watch it on Amazon Prime.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic