BAND AID (2017)
Starring Zoe Lister-Jones, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Susie Essman, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel, Jorma Taccone, Jesse Williams, Brooklyn Decker, Angelique Cabral, Jaime Chung, Erinn Hayes, Gillian Zinser, Retta, Majandra Delfino, Chris D’Elia and Colin Hanks.
Screenplay by Zoe Lister-Jones.
Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones.
Distributed by IFC Films. 94 minutes. Not Rated.
Over the years, people have started bands for a multitude of reasons: raw talent; to meet girls; to make money; artistic expression; popularity; dumb luck; arrested development; the quest for popularity. Band Aid is probably the first time that I’ve heard the idea of joining a group as a form of marriage counseling.
It’s a cute, clever, rather whimsical idea, though I don’t believe it would work for a second. And the couple here is in massive need of counselling. Their life appears to be a long fight. They are one of those annoying couples who feel comfortable laying into each other in front of friends and strangers alike, making everyone feel weird about being around them. Hell, even their marriage counselor has dumped them.
But don’t worry, it’s a comedy. Well, basically…
Therefore, the couple who you would cross a party to avoid have some softer edges, some lighter moments, some deep-down love diluting the seemingly constant bickering.
The couple are Ben and Anna. Anna (played by Zoe Lister-Jones, who also wrote and directed the film) is making a living as an Uber driver. Once upon a time she wanted to be a writer – she even got a book deal – but she choked upon writing it and blew her chance. Now that failure eats on her – literally, she almost inevitably brings it up in just about every conversation. Ben (Adam Pally) has been dealing with her passive-aggressive guilt. He is also a struggling artist who has given up on himself, eventually settling for occasional freelance graphic artist work, work that he hates and tends to procrastinate upon.
Between their artistic failures, their money problems due to sporadic work, and a quick-cooling passion for each other, Ben and Anna are at each other’s throats. To make things worse, all their friends are having kids, an option that is neither attractive, or possible for the couple.
However, when invited to the latest of a series of kiddie parties for their friends – a party where both have gotten drunk and made asses of themselves – on a whim the two pick up some toy musical instruments and “ad lib” a song. (Well, essentially, they “improvise” a rhyming argument to the tune of “Louie Louie.”)
Something about the process of creating art together – even if it is bitter, somewhat pointed art – makes them feel closer to each other. Therefore, Anna decides this may be their last chance. They dig their old high school guitar and bass out of the garage, recruit the oddball guy next door (Fred Armisen) because he mentioned in passing that he was a drummer, and start working on songs.
The songs are rather clever, catchy and well-written, though the audience does not believe for a second that these lyrically diverse duets are off-the-cuff improvs, as they claim. Their smart, relatable music gets them noticed in some open-mike nights, though the couple’s toxic relationship scares their drummer, who turns out to be the most normal person in the band. Then the opportunity of a record contract makes the wheels come off.
Band Aid is an uneven film. It is often rather funny, but honestly the couple’s constant bickering gets rather wearing on the audience, even when done for comic effect. The story does not necessarily make much sense, and you aren’t going to necessarily buy a lot of the plot twists. However, in general the actors and the writing are strong enough that the characters do not completely curdle on the screen.
It’s an interesting choice for a filmmaking debut for the actress Lister-Jones, best known from the TV series Life in Pieces, New Girl and Whitney. (Series friends Colin Hanks, Hannah Simone and Chris D’Elia give good-natured cameos in the film). It’s far from a perfect movie, but it shows promise. Lister-Jones looks like she may have a good future ahead of her.
However, she’s not quite there yet. Band Aid is a good step, but it is just a step. I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 2, 2017.